SONA protests to persist despite bans — rights group

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
SONA protests to persist despite bans â rights group
In this on June 4, 2020, photo, activist groups march from the University of the Philippines Diliman to the Commision on Human Rights to protest the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — Mobilizations set on Monday will push through despite the issuance of protest bans just days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address, according to human rights monitor Karapatan.

“The Duterte regime is shameless in using quarantine measures to crack down on dissent but we will not be deterred: we will join thousands in the streets on Monday, we will observe proper health protocols, and we will ring the people’s demands louder than ever,” Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said in a Saturday release.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Thursday issued an advisory reminding local government units to observe the prohibition on mass gatherings as mandated by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

RELATED: DILG reiterates ban on mass gatherings ahead of SONA 2020

"In view of the forthcoming State of the Nation Address, the [IATF] strongly reiterates that mass gatherings...are prohibited in areas under General Community Quarantine," read IATF Resolution 57.

In compliance with the DILG advisory, the local government of Quezon City, where the SONA will take place, has since said that all applications for permits to organize or hold public assemblies will not be processed while permits that have been deemed issued upon inaction are revoked.

Karapatan denounced the prohibition of protests which they said are only meant to hide true public sentiment on the administration amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[T]he issuances of these resolutions and advisories mere days before the SONA already show their true intent of threatening and intimidating those who will join the protest with arrests and dispersals,” Palabay said.

“We would like to remind the DILG and the Philippine National Police that the IATF resolutions and guidelines are not laws; they are also not higher than the Constitution and they can’t be used to restrict the peaceful exercise of basic constitutional rights and civil liberties, including the right to freedom of assembly.”

The rights group called on local governments to respect and uphold protest actions on Monday.

“It’s not surprising that this inutile regime is using protests as convenient scapegoats for the ballooning number of COVID-19 cases to justify the banning of protests for SONA when in fact it has been the government’s lack of planning and continuing neglect of public health, basic social services, and people’s rights and welfare that has caused the pandemic to spread — all while vilifying activists as ‘terrorist recruiters,” Palabay said.

“On Monday, we will take to the streets to assert our rights and to expose the true state of the nation — a nation defying State terrorism and fascism.”

2020 SONA


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