PNP on alert for Martial Law protests; cops told to practice 'maximum tolerance'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP on alert for Martial Law protests; cops told to practice 'maximum tolerance'
Members from various groups stage a march protest from U.P. Diliman in Quezon City going to Commonwealth Avenue during the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 26, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Philippine National Police directed all police officers and units to be on alert for possible protests as some Filipinos commemorate the imposition of Marcos' Martial Law. 

"We are expecting protest actions today so I have instructed our police especially in Metro Manila to ensure that peace and order and public health protocols are observed," said Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar in Filipino.

The PNP chief in a statement sent to media said it would be best for groups planning to conduct programs or protest actions to just utilize the online platforms to commemorate and voice their sentiments in relation to the Martial Law anniversary. 

Eleazar said he also directed police personnel to observe maximum tolerance if there will be groups who will push through with their mass actions. 

He said police would also coordinate with the local government units regarding the conduct of mass actions. 

"Your PNP respects the conduct of protest actions so we also hope that the protesters will also respect the rules to ensure your safety especially during a pandemic," said Eleazar.

READ: September 23 marks the day the Philippines learned it was under Martial Law

Last week, a group called Gising Maharlika held a protest action in Manila City to protest the national government's vaccination program. Members of the anti-vaccination collective claimed that the coronavirus pandemic was not real. 

Photos that circulated online showed members of the group not wearing face masks in what the PNP said was an "apparent bid to emphasize that they do not believe in the coronavirus." Posters at the event read: "I do not consent to tyranny." 

Despite the video proof going viral on social media, Eleazar let the group off with a "warning" and said that the PNP will "strictly monitor if there will be protest actions by those anti-vaccine groups and individuals that would violate the minimum public health standard."

The PNP chief's warning is in stark contrast to the police's treatment of protesters and activists since the early days of the pandemic, when urban poor residents calling for food aid were arrested in Quezon City.

Strict implementation of pandemic protocols has been a huge part of the government's pandemic response and security officials have arrested people holding feeding programs and relief drives.

When cops were instructed to practice the same "maximum tolerance" towards protesters at President Rodrigo Duterte's last SONA in late July, progressive groups and activists were arrested and had their protest materials confiscated.

Police used the law on notifiable diseases and other coronavirus protocols to justify the arrests. 

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