MANILA, Philippines, April 2 ------ President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night appealed to the public to wait patiently for government assistance during the COVID-19 crisis and refrain from using force. In a surprise taped public address, Duterte admitted that the government was caught off guard by the emergence of the health emergency which he said resulted in a limited supply of relief goods.
Nonetheless, he assured that government aid would be distributed “equally.” “Our supply is only so much because we didn’t know it would be that fast [in spreading]. In two days’ time, you’re dead. So we are trying to manage it so that everyone would equally have something. Equally is equally — both money and food,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino. “But just wait. Don’t use force,” he added.
The President went on to warn leftist groups against creating trouble and challenging the government during the health crisis, saying that he would not hesitate to have them shot by law enforcers. Duterte made the appeal after 20 protesters demanding food and other assistance were arrested in Quezon City for staging a rally amid the month-long Luzon lockdown.
Half of the country’s population were ordered to stay home, mass gatherings were banned, and public transportation was suspended when Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine,” effectively a lockdown, until April 13. This drastic measure, which is aimed at preventing the spread of the new coronavirus, effectively halted trade and industry in Luzon. The government has rolled out its P200-billion cash assistance program for over 18 million poor Filipino families to help cope with the effects of the 30-day Luzon quarantine. But Duterte insisted that there should be order in the delivery and distribution of the relief package.
“We are taking steps to sustain ourselves, but only if there is order in society. Because if there is chaos, there is no order, no distribution will take place because [the relief good] are being snatched to ambushed,” the President said.