Countries must isolate, test, treat and trace to reduce coronavirus epidemics, says WHO

Man shot dead for flouting coronavirus rules in Philippines

‘Authorities think these regulations are more about showing their power and authority than saving lives,’ says Human Rights Watch

Samuel Lovett@samueljlovett
Monday 06 April 2020 13:44
comments

A man was shot dead by police in the Philippines for threatening local officials after refusing to follow the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

The 63-year-old man is believed to have been drunk when he attacked health officials and police manning a Covid-19 checkpoint in the southern town of Nasipit in Agusan del Norte province.

“The suspect was cautioned by a village health worker ... for not wearing a face mask,” a police report said on Sunday. “But the suspect got angry, uttering provoking words and eventually attacked the personnel using a scythe.”

The man was subsequently shot dead as the incident escalated, in what is the first reported case of police shooting a civilian for flouting rules on curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Thursday’s killing follows the warning made by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte that police and military have the right to execute lockdown violators.

“My orders to the police and military ... if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead … Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you,” he said last week.

Defending his words over the weekend, the president said: “Without these restrictions, this will not end. So if you don’t want to follow, then I will finish you to protect the lives of the innocent who don’t want to die.”

To date, the Philippines has reported 3,246 cases and 152 deaths from coronavirus.

The main island of Luzon has been under lockdown since 16 March, while local authorities in a number of other provinces have imposed their own restrictions.

Last week, the government ordered all citizens to wear masks when venturing outside during the month-long lockdown.

“Let me repeat – if you need to go out of your house, you need to wear a mask,” government official Karlo Nograles said.

The Philippines government has come under criticism for its aggressive dealing of the coronavirus pandemic, with human rights groups warning against President Duterte’s “reckless” and abusive regulations.

“More tragedies like this are bound to happen because President Duterte gave officials the explicit and very public go ahead to shoot people dead for defying Covid-19 related regulations,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told The Independent.

Loading....

“Someone who is drunk with a farm implement should be disarmed and sent home, not shot down in the street. The problem is local Philippines authorities think these regulations are more about showing their power and authority through curfews and checkpoints than saving lives by keeping people safe and socially distanced.

“Duterte’s reckless, rights-abusing pronouncements are making things worse for the people of the Philippines at this extraordinarily difficult time.”

Butch Olano, a director for Amnesty International in the Philippines, said: “This is an unprecedented health crisis, but President Duterte is focusing on attacking freedoms of speech and assembly.”

Last month, concerns were raised that lockdown violators in the county were being subject to “cruel” and “inhuman” mistreatment at the hands of local authorities.

In one incident, five men in a province south of Manila were arrested and placed into a dog cage.

Human Rights Watch said the arresting officials sought to justify their actions by claiming the men had violated curfew and been verbally abusive.

Elsewhere, in Paranaque, a city within Metro Manila, a number of individuals who had broken curfew were reportedly forced to sit in the intense midday sun by local police.

A number of arrests were also made in the capital last Wednesday after residents staged a protest demanding emergency relief goods and food amid a lockdown that has left many out of work.

The government has sanctioned a 200 billion peso (£3.2bn) relief package, but there have been delays in the delivery of assistance.

Mr Robertson added that any “interventions” made by police and authorities in dealing with potential lawbreakers “must be in line with international human rights standards, including the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of people in custody”.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments