MANILA – There is nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte threatening people who are making trouble amid the implementation of Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, Malacañang said on Friday.
“Threatening violators and enemies of the state with deathly violence is not a crime,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement.
Panelo issued the statement, a day after non-governmental organization Amnesty International (AI) expressed alarm over Duterte’s stern warning against troublemakers who are hampering government’s efforts to fight coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Duterte, in a televised address on April 1, warned that he would order the arrest of persons who are sowing chaos during the imposition of month-long enhanced community quarantine.
AI, in a Twitter post on Thursday, said the Philippine government “must end incitement to violence and protect the right to human life and human rights.”
Jose Noel Alano, AI Section Director in the Philippines, slammed Thursday the supposed “abusive methods” of Duterte to punish those accused of breaching quarantine protocols in Luzon.
“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,” Alano said in a press statement.
Responding to the “biased minds of these incorrigible objectors,” Panelo cited that Section 18, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution mandates Duterte to call the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte minced no words in warning the troublemakers and the seditious inciters of mortal consequences if they continue to create unrest, panic, confusion, fear and foment hate against the government, while the nation struggles to rid itself of the deadly coronavirus,” he said.
“The law allows the use of lethal violence when the person’s life using it hangs on the balance. That is a universal law anchored on the principle of self-preservation,” Panelo added.
‘Crushing’ state enemies
Panelo said Duterte is merely warning those who are instigating riots and violence that the government is ready to “forcibly quell any unrest and disturbance that threaten public safety, especially at this time of national emergency.”
He said any attempt by enemies of the state to destabilize the government and impede the swift and smooth Covid-19 response “will be crushed.”
“The President is tasked by the Constitution to enforce it and the laws of the land. Transgressors will suffer the consequences of their violations as imposed by law,” Panelo said.
Panelo also lamented that despite Duterte’s desire to maintain peace and order in the country, “usual detractors, whiners and nitpickers” are claiming that the Chief Executive is eyeing the implementation of martial law in the country.
He said Duterte only wants to ensure Filipinos’ safety amid the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
“The President by exercising what the Constitution requires him to do is precisely putting an end to a contemplated and threatened violence by those who disturb the status quo that will certainly result in the destruction of lives and properties. By so doing, the President is protecting the lives and human rights of those people placed in imminent danger thereof,” Panelo said.
On Thursday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles denied that the government is hatching a plot to declare a nationwide martial law.
Nograles said Duterte’s directive against troublemakers was not a prelude to the imposition of martial rule.
Duterte’s recent pronouncement came as the government continues to step up its efforts to address Covid-19, which already infects 2,633 people.
One of the government’s implemented measures against Covid-19 is the community quarantine in Luzon until April 12 to effectively stop the further spread of the new pathogen.
Nograles, in a virtual press conference aired on state-run PTV-4 on Friday, said the technical working group of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has yet to finalize its report on the possible lifting or extension of community quarantine.
He said all the recommendations from the stakeholders would also be considered by the technical working group.
“All stakeholders are free to submit their recommendations to the technical working group,” Nograles said. “Hintayin na lang natin kung ano ang magiging recommendation ng technical working group. Idi-discuss muna namin sa IATF (Let’s wait for the technical working group’s recommendation. That will then be discussed by the IATF). And then we will make the announcement.”
In the meantime, the government is focused on looking for ways to arrest the spread of Covid-19, Nograles said.
”What is exactly the concrete plan of the government? Well, as stated by the chief implementer, the concrete plan is to contain the spread, to heal those who have Covid-19, to give assistance to all of those who are in need, and transition to the new normal,” he said. (ia/sph/PNA)