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Police say SONA protests âgenerally peacefulâ
Activists and civil libertarians stage a ‘silenced’ protest in front of the Baguio Cathedral yesterday denouncing the Anti-Terror Law.
Artemio Dumlao

Police say SONA protests ‘generally peaceful’

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Protest actions during President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) were generally peaceful despite the arrest of 34 demonstrators in Quezon City, Marikina and Caloocan, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported yesterday.

“The situation was generally peaceful and orderly with no untoward incident reported,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a message sent through Viber.

Around 6,000 police officers secured Duterte’s SONA.

PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa instructed police units to slap fines on violators of local government ordinances on quarantine so they will not spend a day in jail.

“Right away they can pay their fine and be released,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director, said around 1,817 members of cause-oriented groups took part in a two-hour rally at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, gave a much higher figure of participants at around 10,000.

Montejo lauded the participants for following what was agreed upon during a dialogue over the weekend.

Police in Metro Manila arrested 34 people who were on their way to join the protest actions.

Police said some of the suspects were accused of illegal assembly while most were nabbed for riding an overloaded vehicle, violating health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said five were alleged members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) in Quezon City.

Sinas said the PISTON members were nabbed after law enforcers stopped a passenger jeepney along East Ave. near Quezon Memorial Circle.

According to the police, the jeepney’s passengers were apparently going to the protest rally to denounce the SONA of Duterte at the Batasang Pambansa.

Police said the PISTON members were later brought to the QCPD headquarters at Camp Karingal for processing and they would be charged with violations of Batas Pambansa 880 and Republic Act 11332 for alleged illegal assembly.

“We will charge them with illegal assembly because the local government of Quezon City has not issued any rally permit,” Sinas said.

PISTON secretary general Steve Ranjo urged the police to just withdraw the charges.

“If traditional jeeps are not allowed, why apprehend only them? We do not see any ground to arrest them,” said Ranjo.

Sinas said jeepneys are not allowed to ply the roads, hence the apprehension of the suspects.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has previously announced it would still not allow traditional public jeepneys to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Police had to slap them with criminal charges “so they know we mean business,” Sinas said. “When we just send them home and do not file charges against them, they will just come back and join rallies.”

Sinas also ordered the police units in Metro Manila, especially those onboard police mobiles and in plain clothes, to arrest any individual or group that would try to assemble and display placards along Commonwealth Avenue near the Batasang Pambansa.

Sinas said 24 others were accosted after their L-300 van with license plate HEI-7459 was stopped at a police checkpoint in Marikina City.

“Our police saw that the vehicle was overloaded,” Sinas said.

He said the policemen stopped the vehicle because they believed the passengers violated government rule on reduced capacity of vehicles to only 50 percent of the usual seating capacity as part of the health protocol against COVID-19, Sinas said.

Police still have to find out the purpose of the travel of the car which came from Tanay, Rizal, he said.

However, Sinas assured the demonstrators they would be allowed inside the UP Diliman campus, saying police would respect the freedom to hold rallies inside as guaranteed by past agreements between government and the UP board.

Police said five other men were arrested by the Caloocan City police at a checkpoint after they stopped the suspect’s jeep and seized protest placards.

Peaceful protest

Protest actions staged by various groups ended peacefully amid tension with state forces following an earlier warning that rallyists can be arrested over supposed violation of quarantine rules against mass gathering.

The main protest action was held along University Avenue inside the UP campus in Diliman, Quezon City and ended after only two hours, from 10 a.m. to noon.

“Shortest SONA protest ever with program at just two hours [but] brought thousands of people together. Despite the shortened program and scorching heat, the rage remained undiminished,” said Bayan secretary general Reyes.

Reyes said an estimated 10,000 people, wearing face masks, participated in the protest action which stretched from Quezon City Hall to UP Diliman.

“The failed government response to the rising number of people infected with COVID-19 has resulted in the worst economic crisis in history. This government has no clear plan as to how it can effectively address the health crisis,” Reyes lamented.

Instead of the traditional “physical” effigy, the group prepared a virtual effigy. It was designed by the Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo or SAKA, an artist alliance for agrarian reform.

For the so-called E-ffigy, the group formed a diorama of SONA rally, complete with mini placards and streamers. It was projected in LED walls. In the video, President Duterte appeared as the “Veerus of Malacañang.”

Using stop motion animation, the video mimicked the actual SONA rally and the burning of the effigy. – Ghio Ong, Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva, Edith Regalado

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