UP Cebu protesters 'tried the tolerance of police, went too far' — PNP chief

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
UP Cebu protesters 'tried the tolerance of police, went too far'  â  PNP chief
Police on standby at the University of the Philippines Cebu where protesters gather vs the anti-terror bill on June 5.
The Freeman / Aldo Banaynal, file

MANILA, Philippines — Activists were arrested for protesting the controversial anti-terrorism bill outside the University of the Philippines in Cebu went too far and tested the patience of police officers, the chief of the national police said.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, defended the arrests made at the Black Friday protest, saying the eight who were arrested were apprehended for disobedience to authority. 

"It seemed like they really try the tolerance of police to some extent. They are going too far already, which is tantamount to disobedience that's why we caused the arrest," he also said of the eight protesters.

Videos from the protest showed activists running into the UP Cebu to get away from police and an officer lifting up and carrying away one protester who was later arrested. Police said the activists had "shoved" their officers, who had shields and truncheons.

The eight included seven activists and one bystander who was documenting their arrest. 

After spending almost 36 hours in detention, the protesters were ordered released without bail by a Cebu court on Monday after the UP Office of the Student Regent called for their safe and immediate release.

Gamboa urged the public to air their sentiments and expression through avenues other than mass gatherings.

Police have also arrested protesters who had aired their views outside of mass gatherings.

Police guidelines

According to a 1989 agreement between the UP and the Department of National Defense also known as the Soto-Enrile accord, police and military presence in any of the state university's campuses is prohibited unless authorized by the UP administration.

The agreement provides that military and police elements "shall not interfere with peaceful protest actions by UP constituents within UP premises."

However, law enforcement personnel may enter UP campuses if in "hot pursuit," which Cebu City police said was the case on June 5.

Rule 25 of the Revised PNP Operational Procedures, a public document, touches on rallies and demonstrations and says that police are instructed to observe maximum tolerance in all dispersal operations as far as rallies and demonstrations are concerned.

"The PNP shall not interfere with the holding of a public assembly...No public assembly with a permit shall be dispersed. However, when a public assembly becomes violent, the civil disturbance management contingents may disperse such public assembly," the rule reads. 

Section 25.4(d) of the rule goes on to say: “No arrest of any leader, organizer, or participant shall be made unless he violates during the assembly a law, statute, or ordinance,” while 25.9 says: "Respect for human rights and equal treatment and protection for everybody shall be strictly observed; and PNP personnel shall observe maximum tolerance."

Holding mass gatherings, like a birthday party for example, is prohibited during the general community quarantine. 

After the protest was dispersed, police told reporters that the protesters were apprehended for violating Cebu city's general community quarantine among others.

Gamboa, at the briefing on Tuesday, also defended the anti-terrorism bill, which the PNP will help implement, saying the proosed law has enough safeguards against potential abuse and that the national police would not abuse its power. 

“First, it hasn't been signed into law yet. Second, we will wait for the implementing rules and regulations so we can look at what's in it for the PNP and what's in it for the public...I don't suppose that the legislature, the branch of government who takes care of formulating the law will craft it without safety nets. I think these have safety nets and the public is there to watch," Gamboa said in a mix of Filipino and English. — with reports from Ratziel San Juan 



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