MANILA: The Philippine government was not keen on imposing martial law to combat the coronavirus disease, Cabinet Secretary Karlos Nograles said on Thursday.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday openly ordered soldiers and the police to shoot and kill those who might cause “trouble” amid a lockdown to contain the spread of the contagion.
In a virtual press conference, Nograles, spokesperson for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, allayed fears of a possible imposition of martial law in the wake of Duterte’s warning against violators of quarantine protocols.
Nograles said that while martial law was off the table, in a state of calamity there had to be order. “That’s why it’s important for President Duterte to keep the peace and order specially in this time.”
“Let’s not complicate things by making it a peace and order problem. It’s already hard as it is,” he said.
Nograles made the statement a day after President Duterte said that he would not hesitate to have those who took advantage of the situation and created trouble to be arrested or even shot dead.
“I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, also the village officials, 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,” Duterte said in an impromptu televised address late on Wednesday.
“Do not test the government,” Duterte said, adding that the situation was getting worse three weeks into the month-long lockdown, or what that government calls “enhanced community quarantine.”
The COVID-19 death toll in the country has reached 107, as the number of confirmed infected individuals rose to 2,633 based on latest data from the Department of Health, while 51 patients have recovered from the disease.
“So let this be a warning to all. Follow the government at this time because it is really critical that we have order,” he said.
The president was referring to the political left, but also possibly others who may protest or question strict measures adopted by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His warning came hours after residents of San Roque village in Quezon City staged a protest to demand food aid claiming they had not received relief items since the lockdown was imposed on March 17.
Police arrived at the scene and reportedly asked the residents to leave the area. But they refused to do so, prompting the police to arrest some of them.
Authorities identified the left-leaning urban poor group Kadamay as the instigator of the protest.
“Remember, you leftists: You are not the government . . . and you cannot be a part of what we are planning to do for the nation . . . do not cause riots because I will order you detained and release you only when this COVID (crisis) is over,” Duterte said.
“I will not hesitate (for) my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you . . . When you get detained, you are on your own when it comes to food,” he said.
Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa however assured the public that the police would not shoot leftists and quarantine violators. He said that the president just “overemphasized” law enforcement in his recent address to the nation.