Critics are accusing the Philippines government of using the coronavirus lockdown to crack down on dissent

05-Aug-2020 Intellasia | CNN | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Questioning the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions can be a risky business in the Philippines.

In mid-March, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered parts of the country to go into a quarantine that would eventually last up to 80 days, and become one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns.

Protests against job losses and food shortages during that period were met with a strong police response and mass arrests. In April, Duterte publicly said police should “shoot… dead” anyone who violated virus restrictions.

“I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police, the military and the barangays: If they become unruly and they fight you and your lives are endangered, shoot them dead,” Duterte said during a speech.

Though restrictions were eased in June, owing to concerns around the economny, coronavirus cases have since risen with the Philippines currently reporting the second-highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia.

The country announced its highest single-day jump in new coronavirus infections on Sunday, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines, with 5,032 confirmed cases in 24 hours. The Phlippines now has more than 100,000 coronavirus cases in a population of 106 million.

The capital Manila is due to return to a modified lockdown from midnight on Tuesday, with people under the age of 21 or over the age of 60 required to remain at home, along with those at high risk of infection.

But as millions of Filipinos return to lockdown, critics of the President allege that newly introduced sweeping anti-terror legislation could be used to further stifle dissentespecially around the virus.

Supporters of the law, which greatly expands the definition of terrorism, say it is necessary for national security and a valuable tool to protect the Philippines from terrorist attacks. Opponents claim the government has used the lockdown as pretext to force through its introduction with minimal resistance.

“If (this) happened at a time when we weren’t under quarantine, there would have been mass protests outside,” said Maria Ressa, a journalist and critic of the Duterte administration.

“For Filipinos, to do that meant risking not just the virus, but risking arrest. And if the virus doesn’t get you, prison will.”


Category: Philippines

Print This Post