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Duterte Threatens to Imprison Mayors Defying Coronavirus Quarantine

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In a taped speech broadcast early Friday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned local government officials to heed his orders of quarantine or face criminal charges.

On Monday, Duterte ordered the entire island of Luzon, where Manila is located, be placed on an “enhanced” community lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of Chinese coronavirus.

Ordering local government units to “stand down” and obey the rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the national entity overseeing quarantine operations, the former mayor of Davao City threatened criminal action for local officials who do not comply.

“[I]f you go beyond the standards that we have set, you are abusing your authority and you know that it can lead to administrative cases or even worse, unless you stop what you are doing … Criminal cases cannot be far behind,” he said.

Duterte’s caution comes amid concerns by some local officials that there may not be enough police units to enforce the lockdown. In Quezon City – the most populous city in the Philippines, home to almost 3 million – mayor Joy Belmonte said Thursday, “The manpower resources of the Quezon City Police District will be insufficient [to enforce the lockdown]. It will be overstretched, and it will not be effective because of the size of our city.”

Duterte argued that the national government’s proscriptions should override local mandates during this unprecedented time of crisis. “[T]his is an emergency of national proportions and therefore it should be the national government that should call the shots,” he said.

This show of strength by national authorities comes after a call by private hospitals for the government to centralize treatment efforts into one or two healthcare facilities, as the Chinese coronavirus increasingly overwhelms Philippine health centers. At press time Friday, the Philippines had 230 confirmed cases of Chinese coronavirus and 18 deaths.

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