QCPD told: No permit needed in freedom park, no guns allowed at protests

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
QCPD told: No permit needed in freedom park, no guns allowed at protests
Photograph of the incident shows a QCPD officer in plainclothes at a rally held inside the UP Diliman campus.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — It was the Quezon City police who violated the law during a scuffle at the University of the Philippines campus at a protest Saturday, and not the activists who were present at the demonstration, they said.

This comes after groups marched to the Commission on Human Rights grounds, which is at the University of the Philippines Diliman, on Saturday to protest the junking of ABS-CBN Corp.'s application for a broadcast franchise and the looming implementation of the anti-terror law. 

The Quezon City Police District in a press release over the weekend said that it would be filing charges against a number of activists who allegedly approached one member of the force and mauled him, later taking his belongings.

Five officers were present on-site "for peacekeeping and monitoring...to maintain peace and order in the illegal demonstration," QCPD said.

This claim was only made in a press release, though, and neither the QCPD nor the UP Diliman police, which provides campus security, has released spot reports on the incident when sought by reporters.

Photographs of the incident also show that none of the officers were in uniform, which is against the agency's own Revised PNP Operational Procedures.

QCPD's account also differs from other narratives from activists at the scene who witnessed the officer being arrested by the university's police after being caught with a gun. No mention of this was made in the district's statement.

In a Facebook post, League of Filipino Students spokesperson Kara Lenina Taggaoa, who was mentioned in the QCPD report as "Kara Levina Taggaoa", said the charges have no basis.

Confirming that LFS joined the protest, she said that "permit was sought and given by the CHR to use the Liwasang Diokno, which is a freedom park and declared a safe space for human rights." 

"The police [also] violated BP 880, or The Public Assembly Act of 1985, because a gun was sighted on one of the police who was in the vicinity of the protest," she also said. 

She added that, on the basis of health protocols against COVID-19, the government has "normalized police presence anywhere and everywhere."

The QCPD has not acknowledged nor responded to these allegations as of this writing. 

'It was QCPD that violated the law'

The same statement by the QCPD also says that the protest was illegal because it violated a Marcos-era law requiring protests to secure permits before trooping to public areas. 

However, the protest was held at the Liwasang Diokno, opened last year as a freedom park, in the Commission on Human Rights grounds. Under Batas Pambansa 880—the same law cited by QCPD—"demonstrations and meetings may be held at any time without the need of any prior permit" at a freedom park.

In an exchange with Philstar.com on Sunday, Bryan Gonzales, who was also among those mentioned by name in QCPD's statement as a "leader of (rights group) Karapatan," denied any involvement in the commotion, saying he was not even a member of Karapatan.

"I had no physical contact with the intelligence officers 'assaulted' yesterday as I was standing on the opposite end of the freedom park. I likewise made no orders to assault or rob those intelligence officers," he said.  

A separate statement by multi-sector coalition Movement Against Tyranny told the same story, pointing out that police violated sections of the same law they were using to file charges against protestors. 

"Yesterday's protest and teach-in at the Liwasang Diokno of the Commssion on Human Rights was peaceful for the most part were it not for the provocative presence of an armed police agent in plainclothes who was accosted at the rally site. The policeman was later turned over to the UP Police," MAT said.

"For the record, there was no such thing as an 'illegal demonstration' claimed by the QCPD. The teach-in which featured talks by lawyers and SC petitioner vs the terror law, was held at a freedom park and had the acknowledgment of the CHR. A permit is not required in a freedom park," the group also said.

"All participants practiced social distancing and wore facemasks." 

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