A member of the Philippine military prepares to setup a checkpoint in a main thoroughfare after president Duterte ordered a lockdown to contain the novel COVID-19 virus on March 15, 2020 in Meycauayan, north of Manila. (Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images)

Philippines: President Duterte gives “shoot to kill” order amid pandemic response

Responding to orders from President Duterte to police, military officials and barangay officials to shoot ‘troublemakers’ protesting during community quarantine, Amnesty Philippine Section Director, Butch Olano, said:

“It is deeply alarming that President Duterte has extended a ‘shoot to kill’ policy to law enforcement agencies. Deadly, unchecked force should never be used in an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The abusive methods used to punish those accused of breaching quarantine and the vast number of mass arrests that have been carried out to date, against mainly poor people, are further examples of the oppressive approach the government takes against those struggling with basic needs.

The violent police response to calls for help is heartless and unjustifiable, especially while millions of Filipinos are prevented from earning a living.

Butch Olano

“This includes the violent police dispersal of residents of San Roque, Quezon City who were protesting the lack of relief support from the local government. The violent police response to calls for help is heartless and unjustifiable, especially while millions of Filipinos are prevented from earning a living.

“We call on the President to immediately cease his dangerous incitement to violence against those critical of the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. The local government must initiate a dialogue with residents and deliver much-needed relief especially to the poorest communities.

“We also urge the concerned agencies to investigate members of the police that resorted to disproportionate violence, release San Roque residents under arrest and conduct a probe into the broader incident. The lives of those most at risk must be considered a priority, in the effort to minimize the threat of the virus.


On 1 April 2020, in a televised address President Duterte admonished those who may cause ‘trouble’ during the imposition of the community quarantine amid the COVID 19 pandemic. Referring to the political left, but also seemingly others who may protest or question government measures, he openly gave orders to the police, military and local officials to shoot them dead saying, “I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, also the barangay, that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave.”

Based on latest information from the Philippine National Police, over 17,000 people have already been arrested for violations related to lockdown and curfew orders declared in various regions in the country, including in Metro Manila, in response to the pandemic. Given the elevated risks of transmission of COVID-19 in places of detention, using prison sentences to enforce quarantine restrictions in the name of safeguarding public health is counterproductive and as such disproportionate. Reports have also appeared of inhuman punishments those breaching quarantine have been made to endure, including sitting for hours in the hot sun or being detained in dog cages.

On 1 April 2020, residents of San Roque village in Quezon City gathered along a portion of EDSA – a major highway in Metro Manila – upon receiving news that relief items were to be distributed there. According to the group Save San Roque Alliance, when the distribution didn’t happen, the residents decided to stay in the area and stage a protest to demand relief from the Quezon City government. Members of the police supposedly asked the residents to leave the area, according to reports, and arrested them when they refused to do so.

The residents’ alliance, however, told Amnesty International that police resorted to violently dispersing the protestors and hit them with wooden sticks. According to one official of the group that the organization talked to, the victims included a man with his baby who was in the area to collect financial aid from his company whose office was also along EDSA. The baby was likewise hit in the violence that ensued, according to the official.

A total of 21 protesters were brought and detained at the headquarters of Quezon City police. Supporters and relatives were prevented from talking to them or delivering food for them following several hours of detention, the group’s official said.


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