PNP to observe 'maximum tolerance' for SONA protesters

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP to observe 'maximum tolerance' for SONA protesters
The anti-Duterte rally on July 23, 2018 drew in 23,000 protesters.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — As it did a year ago, the Philippine National Police on Sunday urged protesters to "seriously consider" holding their mass actions online instead of in-person for President Rodrigo Duterte's sixth and final State of the Nation Address on Monday. 

In a press statement sent to media, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, called for peaceful demonstrations as he instructed police personnel to "keep their tempers in check and remain professional, strictly observing maximum tolerance in dealing with groups staging mass actions."

He added that while PNP personnel are directed to observe maximum tolerance towards demonstrators, any groups conducting mass protests should also police their ranks and ensure that they also respect the mandate of policemen to serve and protect.

"Let's just learn to respect each other and I assure you we won't have any problems... In the past five SONAs of our President Duterte, your Philippine National Police has demonstrated well its respect for the right of our countrymen to hold protest actions to express their views," he claimed.

"This coming Monday, nothing will stop you from holding rallies but we hope that this will be done in a way that does not violate our mandate to maintain peace, order and safety of everyone especially and local transmission of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed."

Did PNP really respect the right to assembly?

This is not the first time the PNP promised "maximum tolerance" when dealing with protest actions. 

At last year's SONA, though, police arrested members of transport group Piston who were on their way to a mobilization at the University of the Philippines Diliman hours before the SONA had actually started. 

READ: 'Advance mag-isip': Cops arrest PISTON members headed to protest at UP Diliman

Piston said its members were illegally arrested as they were on their way to a protest that had not even begun when they were arrested by cops. 

Manila police personnel were also filmed confiscating protest materials from a churchgoer in the middle of a Mass.

Former PNP chief Debold Sinas, who was Metro Manila police chief at the time, gave the order to arrest any protesters along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

As a result, the National Capital Region Police Office deployed plainclothes officers in and around the area to intercept and arrest any demonstrators. 

READ: 'Walang usap-usap': Protesters outside UP will be arrested, NCRPO chief says

"We won't set them free just like that anymore, just to show them that we mean business," Sinas, who himself violated quarantine protocols, said then in Filipino. 

"No discussion. If anyone brings out a placard, they're arrested right away," he also said.

Over the coronavirus pandemic, the national police have often used the violation of social distancing rules to justify arresting protesters.

A total of 15,000 police personnel will be deployed to secure peace and order during Duterte's final SONA, the police chief also disclosed earlier.

Eleazar earlier Friday also ordered the suspension of all permits to carry firearms outside of residence ahead of the chief executive's final SONA.

"Talking to them can be smooth and calm as long as they follow the rules, especially now that there is a pandemic. I hope that the groups will have an orderly and voluntary dispersal and there will be no more chaos," he also said in Filipino.

"I am urging these groups to hold their activities online to ensure safety amid the health crisis. It doesn't matter how your activity is done. What is important is that you have conveyed the message that you want our countrymen to know."

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 27, 2021 - 10:58am

Follow this thread for updates on the preparations for and the delivery of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address.

Photo: RTVM screengrab from SONA 2020

July 27, 2021 - 10:58am

President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address was a confirmation that killing is a government policy, rights group Karapatan says.

"Duterte knows the day of reckoning is coming for him with the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor’s request to investigate him for his crimes against the Filipino people. He may brag and pretend not to care, but his quip to 'add another' dead body amid the calls for accountability is an insidious — and serious — threat," the group also says.

July 26, 2021 - 6:35pm

President Duterte says the Delta variant of the COVID-19 is "far more aggressive and dangerous."

Duterte hopes the variant will not spread any further but if something wrong happens, "it will be just like what happened in the early days."

July 26, 2021 - 6:21pm

President Duterte claims his government launched the most extensive amelioration program in history with the passage of Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2.

July 26, 2021 - 6:17pm

President Duterte talks about the pandemic response, joking that he may have the deadly virus that killed 27,000 Filipinos.

Earlier he told everyone to pray to God to solve the pandemic, which has left thousands of Filipinos out of work.

July 26, 2021 - 5:59pm

President Duterte revisits the issue with Metro Manila water providers, now Razon-led Manila Water Company Inc. and Pangilinan-led Maynilad Water Services Inc., which he earlier accused of forging "onerous" contracts with the government.

"I told (Finance Secretary) Dominguez, 'tell them that I am no longer honoring the contract,'" the president recalls telling his finance chief. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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