Duterte Accuses Doctors of Wanting 'Revolution,' Reimposes Manila Lockdown

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has dared doctors to push for a "revolution" in the country, as he ordered the reimposition of partial lockdown measures in the capital Manila. The move followed a spike in the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases.

The Philippines recorded 5,032 new infections Sunday—the largest single-day tally since the virus appeared in the country in January. So far, authorities have confirmed 103,185 cases and 2,059 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Twenty more people died on Sunday.

The Philippines is the second-worst affected nation in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia. The region has performed better than others in containing the pandemic and keeping infection and death numbers relatively low.

The spike in infections prompted more than 80 organizations representing 80,000 doctors and 1 million nurses to call for tighter controls. The medical professionals warned that the country was failing to contain the pandemic and risked losing its grip on the crisis.

On Monday, Duterte announced authorities would hire 10,000 more medical professionals to augment the effort against coronavirus. But the controversial president also attacked the doctors and nurses that had called for more action, daring them to mount an uprising against his government.

"You really don't know me. You want to revolution? Then say it. Go ahead, try it. We'll ruin everything," Duterte said in a televised address. "We'll kill all those who are infected with COVID," he added. "Is that what you want? We can always end our existence in this manner."

The doctors and nurses pushing for greater controls had not called for a change in president or government, only stricter measures to address the spreading virus. It is not clear why Duterte accused them of pushing for a "revolution."

The fresh lockdown measures on Manila's 12 million people and those in five surrounding provinces will remain in place until August 18. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Monday that mass public transport will stop and only essential travel will be allowed.

Duterte—the populist former mayor of Davao City—became infamous early in his term for his brutal war on drugs, which critics said encouraged widespread human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings. Official figures show that at least 8,000 people have died in the war on drugs since Duterte took office, but other estimates range as high as 27,000.

The 75-year-old president—who has admitted his own drug use and claims to have personally killed suspected criminals while serving as Davao City mayor—has also gained notoriety for a number of offensive statements and threats against his opponents.

Last month, Duterte was criticized for spreading false information about coronavirus safety measures. He told citizens that they could disinfect protective face masks by dipping them in gasoline or diesel, which is not true. He made the misleading remarks while urging people to wear masks and threatening harsh punishments for those caught not doing so.

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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte shows documents during a press conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila on November 19, 2019. TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty