MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte is allowed to make violent threats against leftist groups looking to stir public sentiment against the government as part of his responsibility to "suppress lawless violence," his spokesman said Friday.
Duterte did not commit a crime when he said that he would not hesitate to have leftists causing trouble arrested or even shot dead by law enforcers if state troops' lives are in danger, his spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said.
"Threatening violators and enemies of the state with deathly violence is not a crime. The law allows the use of lethal violence when the person’s life using it hangs on balance," Panelo said in a statement.
"The President is tasked by the Constitution to enforce it and the laws of the land. Transgressors will suffer the consequences of their violations as imposed by law," he added.
Panelo's remarks came following an uproar on social media over President Duterte's latest remarks.
Duterte on Wednesday night accused leftist groups of stirring public sentiment against the government during the coronavirus crisis. He warned the groups against causing trouble, saying he wouldn't hesitate to order authorities to "shoot them dead."
“My orders are sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead," said Duterte.
(My orders to police and military, even the barangay [officials], if there is trouble and there comes an occasion to fight and your life is on the line, shoot them dead.)
The President made the remark hours after authorities dispersed a protest rally by a group of Quezon City residents along EDSA for violating the Luzon quarantine.
The group said they were out of work and had not received food aid.
Police, meanwhile, said the leftist group Kadamay riled up the protesters using false information.
Panelo said the President is "merely reminding" troublemakers that the government is ready to stop any act that threatens public safety.
"By so doing, the President is protecting the lives and human rights of those people placed in imminent danger thereof," Panelo said.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa on Thursday, however, assured the public that police officers would not heed the President's order and defended the remark simply as a "strong message."
"We see the strong message and I think all the PNP personnel understood it," he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted President Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency, state of calamity, and state of national emergency.