MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's "shoot them dead" remark as he warned against unruly quarantine violators during the country's public health crisis caused by the new coronavirus outbreak.
"It's very dangerous during this time to incite violence or to use strong words, such as shooting people, when in fact, the primary purpose again of the enhanced community quarantine is to protect the right to life," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia told ANC.
"It would be defeating the purpose if we were to encourage our security sector to put the law into their own hands and forget the primacy of human rights," she added.
While the commission found it reassuring that the Philippine National Police will not abide by Duterte's statement and will only "exercise maximum tolerance and within the bounds of law," de Guia, in a separate statement, warned that the"shoot them dead" order "may be construed as an official policy from the government."
She said the CHR is calling on the "PNP to come up with clearer guidelines for its law enforcers on the ground to assure the public that there will be no abuse of power."
"The primacy of human rights even in times of a national health emergency means that due process and the rule of law still apply," she said.
"Even stricter restrictions, such as the enhanced community quarantine seen to protect the people’s right to health, are guided by human rights standards and principles."
Duterte issued the stern warning to violators of the lockdown, including Leftist groups, in a public address on Wednesday night.
He ordered government forces to arrest or kill troublemakers when their lives are threatened.
“My orders are sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead. Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh ‘di ilibing ko na kayo," he said.
Duterte's statement came after a group of Quezon City residents took to the streets to demand help from the government amid the lockdown.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said, "probably the President just overemphasized on implementing the law in this time of crisis."
"We see the strong message and I think all the PNP personnel understood it," he added.