Duterte said during a press conference in Manila that he had ordered police officers to shoot to kill if people did not obey the quarantine imposed in the country.
"I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military […] that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead. Do you understand?" the president said in a televised speech.
"Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave," Duterte said the same day about 20 people from the San Roque neighborhood in Manila protested without police authorization to demand official help to overcome the lockdown.
For their part, the human rights defenders and civil groups denounced the president's words Thursday, which were quickly spread by social networks, where the hashtag #OustDuterte (expel Duterte) has been trending since Wednesday night.
"We are seriously alarmed that the President's words will translate to worse and more brutal forms of human rights violations, repression, and State violence in the days to come," human rights organization Karapatan said.
Student group CEGP said one "cannot expect the people just to remain silent if their stomachs are churning," adding that the government "cannot clutch unto his fascistic and militaristic schemes because he will not win against a hunger-stricken nation filled with disgust and anger against his incompetent regime."
The closure of much of the country, including Manila, and strict quarantine and confinement regulations have prevented millions who subsist day by day in the capital's most impoverished neighborhoods from finding a way to earn a living, which has made them left vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Duterte also accused left-wing civil groups of instigating the protest, stating: "Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID-19 (outbreak ends)."
The Philippines has so far reported 2,633 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 107 deaths as the numbers keep rising.