Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is dealing with the country’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in a typically antagonistic fashion by threatening to jail people who refuse to get the shot.
“You choose: get vaccinated or I will have you jailed," Duterte said in a televised address on Monday June 21 2021.
The Philippines is currently battling one of the world’s COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia, with the second-highest number of cases after Indonesia. As of June 22, the Philippines has seen 1,364,239 reported cases and 23,749 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.
Duterte’s remarks on Monday were reportedly in response to reports of low turnout at several vaccination centers in the capital Manila. Some health authorities in the country, however, have stated that the vaccinations are voluntary, suggesting his remarks were an empty threat.
"Don’t get me wrong, there is a crisis in this country,” Duterte said. “I’m just exasperated by Filipinos not heeding the orders of the government. We only want what's best for the country."
"I will order their arrest. Why? Because if you are a person who is not vaccinated, you are a potential carrier," he continued.
"To protect the people, I will sequester you."
Duterte is no stranger to controversy. The populist "strongman" leader is known to make offensive, sexist, and expletive-laden statements to the media. He’s called the Pope "the son of a whore," he’s threatened to eat the livers of Islamist terrorists, and he’s boasted about throwing a suspected criminal out of a helicopter, claiming he would do it again.
He’s also notorious for leading the Philippines' ultra-hardline war on drugs. Although the prevalence of illegal drug use in the Philippines is said to be lower than the global average, international drug syndicates have been known to use the Philippines as a stepping stone in the illicit drug trade. When running for president in 2016, Duterte ran on a platform promising to wipe out drug traffickers, even encouraging the public to kill drug users themselves. Since coming to power that year, thousands of drug users and drug dealers have been killed and tortured in the country, either by police or “extrajudicial” armed groups that act with impunity.
Earlier this month, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced they were seeking an investigation into the Philippine government’s deadly “war on drugs,” claiming there are reasonable grounds to suggest it has facilitated crimes against humanity.
Duarte hit out at this news while speaking at the media conference on Monday, calling the ICC “bullsh*t.”
“Why would I defend or face an accusation before white people? You must be crazy,” Duterte stated.
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