An Australian missionary nun who drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 for joining protest rallies hit the Philippine leader for allegedly using the pandemic to advance military rule.
Sister Patricia Fox of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion congregation noted that “human rights are totally being denied” by those enforcing the Philippine lockdown due to the pandemic.
The nun said that instead of showing compassion for the poor, Duterte has given permission to authorities to “shoot to kill” those who will violate strict quarantine measures.
In a statement on April 29, the nun noted that the president’s pronouncements against people “who are hungry or unable to stand the heat in their overcrowded shanties” resulted in arrests.
Sister Fox currently works as coordinator of the Australia-based International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
She cited the shooting of a soldier by a policeman despite the pleas of witnesses that the victim was “not of sound mind.”
The 73-year-old Catholic nun said the Philippine government is “militarizing the country instead of waging an all-out war against the virus through improved health facilities.”
On April 27, the United Nations Human Rights Office has raised alarm over the Philippine government’s “highly militarized response” to the pandemic.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said emergency powers “should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power.”
“Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response,” she said.
“In some cases, people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them,” added Bachelet.
The U.N. official said that unreasonable or arbitrary detention for curfew violations is “an unnecessary and unsafe practice.”
“Jails and prisons, as we all know, are a high-risk environment for the spread of the virus,” she added.
The Philippine National Police has reported that at least 140,000 individuals have been warned, fined, or arrested for allegedly violating quarantine protocols since March.
Sister Fox called on the Australian government to stop military aid to the Philippines, “especially as the country moves closer to declaring martial law.”
The missionary sister lived in the Philippines for 27 years working with the poor before Philippine authorities ordered her deportation in November 2018 due to her alleged involvement in “illegal political activities.”