'Shoot them dead' . . .
The use of military and police power to enforce COVID-19 lockdowns in parts of Asia is raising concerns about human rights violations, particularly in the Philippines and India. Last week, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he would order the police and military to shoot quarantine violators and “troublemakers” during the month-long lockdown on the island of Luzon. Duterte’s statement came after residents of the Sitio San Roque slum in Quezon City staged a protest claiming that they had not received food aid since the lockdown began in mid-March. Human rights groups including Human Rights Watch have condemned Duterte’s order.
‘Medical solutions, not military ones’ . . .
Duterte’s threats highlight the increasing military presence under Luzon’s lockdown. Activists have voiced concerns about the emphasis on military enforcement of social distancing rather than on health services, particularly for the urban poor who are homeless or living in cramped living spaces. Many groups have used the slogan ‘solusyong medikal hindi militar’ (medical solutions, not military ones) to emphasize the need for food and medical and financial assistance over military action. There is growing concern over the high rate of Filipino doctors and nurses getting infected with the virus due to insufficient funding and an inadequate supply of personal protection equipment. Duterte is now considering extending the Luzon lockdown, and has granted a one-time special payment to health-care workers exposed to the virus.
Meanwhile, in India . . .
Similar concerns have been raised over the abuse of police power under India’s national lockdown, and videos have emerged of excessive use of force against quarantine violators. The videos show police physically abusing offenders by hitting them with batons and forcing them to do squats or pushups on the road. Videos have also shown police publicly shaming quarantine violators. One video shows a police officer writing “I have violated lockdown restrictions, keep away from me” on a man’s forehead. More recently, Indian police have dubbed themselves “corona cops,” donning spiky red helmets to resemble the virus, arguably to instill equal measures of awareness and fear.