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CHR: SONA rallies may be held in freedom parks

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star
CHR: SONA rallies may be held in freedom parks
Members of the militant Akbayan party-list group hold placards bidding President Duterte goodbye during a protest action along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City yesterday ahead of Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address on Monday.
Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Even without a permit from the local government unit, protests during President Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) may still be held in freedom parks such as the one located in front of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) central office in Quezon City.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the Liwasang Diokno, which is part of the University of the Philippines (UP) campus, is regarded a freedom park under Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 or the Public Assembly Act of 1985.

Under the law, demonstrations and meetings may be held at any time in freedom parks without the need of any prior permit from the local government unit.

“As such, it is understood that no permit is required for rallies and other protests for as long as UP is also duly notified,” said De Guia.

Another freedom park is located at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

The Quezon City Police District on Thursday denied the application of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan to hold a protest along Commonwealth Avenue during the President’s SONA on Monday. It cited the threat of the Delta variant as the reason for its decision.

Last year, the city government also denied the application for a permit following an advisory issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Activities were instead held at the UP Diliman campus and the Liwasang Diokno freedom park.

NCRPO to deploy 15,000 cops

The National Capital Region Police Office will deploy a total of 15,000 police officers from various units in Metro Manila for President Duterte’s last SONA on Monday, NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said on Wednesday.

As militant groups prepare for outdoor rallies, Danao called on the public to stay home to avoid further COVID-19 transmission.

Police officers deployed for the SONA would also wear body cameras “for us to monitor all movements, particularly the security aspect,” he also said, adding that it is to “ensure that no suspicious person” would get past them.

Gun ban

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has imposed a gun ban on the National Capital Region as part of security preparations for the SONA on Monday.

PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, in a memorandum circular dated July 16, ordered the gun ban from 8 a.m. on July 21 until 8 a.m. on July 28.

“This is to ensure that the activity will be free from firearm-related incidents and to ensure the safety of the populace,” Eleazar said.

During the seven-day period, all permits to carry firearms outside of residence are suspended. It means licensed gun owners are not allowed to bring their firearms outside of their homes.

Eleazar said only members of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies performing official duties and in prescribed uniforms are allowed to carry firearms.

In a statement, Eleazar said they have not monitored any threat to the SONA but he assured that all personnel are ready to respond to any incident. – Emmanuel Tupas

SONA 2021
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