Protests against job losses and food shortages during that period were met with a strong police response and mass arrests. In April, Duterte said publicly that police should “shoot … dead” anyone who violated the limits of the virus.
Although restrictions were eased in June due to economic concerns, coronavirus cases have risen since the Philippines currently reported the second highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia.
But like millions of Filipinos return to closure, Critics of the President claim that the new anti-terrorism legislation can be used to further deceive dissent – especially about the virus.
“If (this) were to happen at a time when we were not quarantined, there would be mass protests outside,” said Maria Ressa, a journalist and critic of the Duterte administration.
“For Filipinos, doing so means risking not only the virus, but risking arrest. And if the virus does not catch you, you will be jailed.”
By March, half the country was under a complete blockade as coronavirus cases began to spread rapidly.
But the law also gave Duterte emergency capabilities, including the ability to take over private medical facilities and public transportation. Under the new law, anyone violating quarantine restrictions faced up to two months in prison or a $ 20,000 fine.
And as the blockade continued, tensions began to rise.
Video from the rally appeared to show protesters being violently dispersed by police officers, including some elderly citizens. It was the same day that Duterte made his “shoot to kill” speech.
Human rights groups have claimed that several arrested people were singled out for public humiliation at the hands of local police, including LGBT youths saying they were forced to kiss each other in custody.
The nationwide blockade was extended
The law, which the government is enforcing, is necessary to combat the growing Islamic militancy in the south of the country. expands the legal definition of terrorism and allows suspected terrorists to be arrested without warrant and detained for up to 24 days.
The Philippine government has not responded to CNN requests for comment on allegations of police conduct and claims anti-terrorism laws could be misused.
The nationwide blockade officially ended on June 1 after 80 days – longer than the restrictions in Wuhan, China, from where the blast erupted.
“President Duterte likes to say he likes the government using violence and fear. This has certainly been irritated by Covid,” Ressa said.
The anti-terror law in particular has caused concern about its potential misuse and widespread enforcement.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act is a human rights disaster while doing so,” said Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director at Human Rights Watch. “The law will open the door to arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences for people or representatives of organizations that dislike the president.”
Proponents of the law have distanced themselves from such concerns, however, noting that under the law, protests, advocacy and dispute are protected as long as they do not “pose a serious threat to public safety”.
Back to closing
Medical professionals had pushed for the restoration of restrictions. At least 80 medical associations signed a letter Saturday urging the President to tighten restrictions. “We are exhausted, both physically and mentally. Most of us are already becoming infected with Covid-19,” College of Physicists President Mario Panaligan said in the letter, according to CNN Philippines.
But with new restrictions come fears from critics, such as Ressa, that authorities will take further advantage of the crisis.
Ressa said she is concerned that the new emergency forces deployed to prevent the epidemic will remain in place even after the pandemic is over.
“This is death with a thousand cuts. … (The government) takes power away from you and you will not regain those rights. This is what we have learned in the last four years. That is why we continue to we say I have to keep the line, “she said.
CNN’s Emily Liu contributed to this article.