04/17/2020, 16.22
PHILIPPINES
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Duterte threatens martial law for those who violate anti-COVID-19 rules

The Philippine president is ready to crack down on those who do not respect the lockdown and self-isolation. In the past few days there was an upsurge of cars on the road. Many people without social benefits have been forced to go out to work. Philippine bishop calls on the government to provide assistance to people and the unemployed.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened a martial law-like crackdown to stop people flouting the novel coronavirus lockdown in the nation's capital .

The president, who has already threatened to shoot people who violate the quarantine, spoke after the authorities reported an upsurge of cars in Manila, whose roads had been virtually deserted since a lockdown was imposed a month ago.

Since then, about half of the country’s 110 million people have been under some restrictions.

“I'm just asking for a little discipline,” said Duterte in yesterday’s televised speech. “If not, if you do not believe me, then the military and police will take over.”

“The military and police will enforce social distancing at curfew ... It's like martial law. You choose," he added.

For Filipinos, martial law evokes the darkest years of Fernando Marcos' dictatorship.

Today, only essential workers and people who have to buy food and medicines can go out; however, many have disregarded restrictions and filled the streets and squares. They include the unemployed, going out looking for work every morning.

So far, some 6,000 novel coronavirus cases have been reported in the Philippines with just under 400 deaths. The numbers are expected to rise because the authorities have starting testing more people.

For her part, the Catholic Church is helping the people most affected by the pandemic. Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos called on the government to do more for workers in difficulty.

“We strongly demand that the Department of Labor and Employment immediately release the financial assistance to all affected workers whether from small, medium, and large enterprises,” Alminaza said.

The prelate noted that many workers have not yet received the cash assistance since the lockdown was imposed. The net effect is that, “workers and their families are left without income to buy food and other basic necessities.”

For him, the government must ask companies employing affected workers to apply for cash assistance to mitigate the impact of the quarantine measures imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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