Duterte’s disposition for warfare amid a pandemic
The enhanced community quarantine has become a scapegoat for the police to abuse and detain civilians under misconstrued and invalid reasons
Apr 3, 2020
Numbers from the Philippine National Police showed that over 20,000 coronavirus lockdown violators have been arrested during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. These arrests are made under the unwavering suspicions of the police who have followed the president’s orders to arrest and detain anyone who goes against the government, regardless of reason.
Meanwhile, data from JTF Covid Shield shows total number of persons cited for curfiew/disobedience violations have risen to more than 75k as of April 1.
Of these, more than 20k arrested, 3800+ fined, 51k+ got off with a warning. (Source: PNP Directorate for Operations) pic.twitter.com/IsR4HxMvvb
— Raffy Sison Santos (@raffsantos) April 2, 2020
On Apr. 1, citizens from Sitio San Roque gathered along EDSA, Kilyawan to ask for food and were arrested by cops from the Quezon City Police District. San Roque is a community populated by low-income earners who cannot work amid the lockdown. When they took to the streets, hunger-stricken and at risk of infection, they were met with guns and violence, and hours later, a message from the president to “shoot them dead.”
Hungry residents in Sitio San Roque amassed to demand food long denied from them by the local government. Instead of getting food, they received a violent dispersal. Several residents were arrested. This government is failing its people! #FightCOVID19 #COVID19 https://t.co/rEsdihCf95
— Leon Dulce (@LeonDulce_) April 1, 2020
Likewise, a video of cops who were trying to arrest innocent citizens from Brgy. Batasan Hills, Quezon City also surfaced on social media. The police said that the accused were going against the lockdown for being outside their homes—when in fact they were only cooking from a built fire outside their house as they did not have a stove inside. A tricycle driver was arrested after insisting on entering a market to buy food for his family.
Amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that the enhanced community quarantine “is not martial law”, several residents reportedly experienced human rights violations in their communities.#COVID19
Full video: https://t.co/Bt1PdHmeF3
📝🎥: Geraldine Santos
🎨: Renz Palalimpa pic.twitter.com/ZytJXqDLEI
— Tinig ng Plaridel (@tinigngplaridel) March 28, 2020
In Parañaque, curfew violators were forced to sit under the sun, with uniformed military men standing guard. The penalty was not prescribed under the city’s ordinance and is considered illegal under the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and Rule 113, Section 3 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedures.
LOOK: Curfew violators in San Isidro, Parañaque will find their way in this area."Sa lahat po na mahuhuli namin sa Curfew dito po namin lalagay." – San Isidro, Parañaque on Facebook📷: San Isidro Parañaque
In these instances, we see that the police’s actions are devoid of any good reason—only driven by a desire to exercise their power over innocent citizens. They do so with the support of the president who continuously promotes arrests, detention, violence and even death without trial on those who “disobey” his rules that seem to be hinged on dictatorial measures that ignore cries of poverty and injustice.
PNP Chief Gen. Gamboa: Successful naman ang implementation natin ng enhanced community quarantine.
— DZBB Super Radyo (@dzbb) March 31, 2020
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa has called the quarantine “successful” since the crime rate has gone down by 56 percent. Blind to the true and most pressing issue at hand, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached 2,000 while the administration continues to abuse their power. Only 4,000 have been tested and the virus will only continue to spread in the absence of mass testing.
Medical, not militarized
The lockdown is not a solution to the virus. A community quarantine is only buying us time and slowing down infection rates. In order to flatten the curve, people who have displayed symptoms and those who have been in contact with them should all be tested. Mass testing would provide a clearer picture of how the virus spreads, which in turn will help us figure out more effective ways to respond. It will also identify and treat asymptomatic carriers who need to be isolated.
However, this medically and scientifically charged process is not a priority for the president. Only adept in the language of oppression and intimidation, Duterte chooses to deploy his most trusted pawns—the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP—as a response to a health crisis.
The administration’s inclination towards violent forces started long before the pandemic. Duterte’s election campaign was sparked by a relentless fire for getting rid of criminals. He made promises of peace and safety for the country under the guise of a strong man declaring the demise of those who traipsed against his ideals. It all came to fruition as Duterte’s drug war made way for at least 22,000 extrajudicial killings.
His cruelty and insensitivity has always been on full display—especially in issues of contractualization, the silencing of the press and the killing of farmers. In all these instances, he has ordered his military men to stifle and kill those who oppose him. It should come as no surprise, then, that he would take the lockdown as an opportunity to incite violence.
The people and organizations that are vital in solving this pandemic are not prioritized by Duterte. While he signs and announces acts and budgets that follow no concrete plans and allocations, the actions that have been successful are efforts by the private sector: medical frontliners sacrificing their lives, government officials using their resources in sensible and efficient ways, civilians donating cash and kind to their fellow countrymen, and scientists and designers innovating equipment to alleviate the pandemic.
Duterte, on the other hand, is still strategizing political schemes in the middle of a pandemic. Power-hungry and anti-poor, he continues to ignore the more urgent task of saving the people from this infectious disease, and still exerts time and effort to espouse fear. Political schemes and military tactics—along with actual bullets—are his solutions against a health crisis that has upturned the lives of everyone. A president who brandishes violence when his people ask for food, protection and medicine has never known competency, compassion and justice.
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