Duterte's threat of 'deathly violence' vs. violators not a crime, Palace says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 3) — Malacañang defended President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial statement ordering government forces to shoot and kill unruly violators of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine once they become a threat to law enforcers' lives.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement said Duterte did not violate any law in issuing an "incisive and blunt" warning.

"Threatening violators and enemies of the state with deathly violence is not a crime," Panelo said.

"The law allows the use of lethal violence when the person’s life using it hangs on balance. That is a universal law anchored on the principle of self-preservation," he added.

Panelo pointed out that the President was actually doing his constitutional duty under Section 18, Article 7, which states that "whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."

"In issuing the warning to the Left as well as to those who instigate riots and violence, he is merely reminding them that the government is ready to forcibly quell any unrest and disturbance that threaten public safety specially at this time of national emergency," Panelo said.

He also hit critics for raising "the specter of martial rule" following Duterte's statement. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases earlier stressed that the placing the country under military rule is not among the options being discussed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Talks of a possible martial law declaration were revived after Duterte in a speech on Wednesday night said, "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!"

[Translation: My orders 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's statement was widely seen as a response to an earlier protest in Quezon City where dozens of residents of Sitio San Roque claimed they have not received any aid from the local government. The Quezon City government has denied this, saying there has been continuous distribution of food packs across the city.

Lawmakers, human rights advocates, and leftist groups have condemned Duterte's statement, saying his administration should address the pleas of the poor instead of resorting to violence.

READ: 'Don't threaten the hungry with bullets': Groups, lawmakers condemn Duterte's order vs. lockdown violators

Philippine National Police Chief General Archie Gamboa earlier stressed that authorities will use their firearms only as "last resort," and that they will fight back only when they are attacked first.