Security beefed up for Marcos SONA

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star

From 15,174 to 21,853 personnel

MANILA, Philippines — The government has beefed up the security contingent for the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Marcos from 15,000 to 21,000 – a move that did not sit well with members of cause-oriented groups, who branded it a waste of public funds.

The decision to increase the number of state security forces and force multipliers who will secure Marcos’ SONA on July 25 was reached during an inter-agency coordinating meeting at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Friday.

NCRPO director Maj. Gen. Felipe Natividad said that from 15,174, they increased the number of security forces to 21,853, citing extensive planning as the reason.

“We are elated to report that everyone was so cooperative in addressing some flaws in the overall plan,” he said in a statement.

Lt. Col. Jenny Tecson, NCRPO spokesperson, clarified the security contingent is not confined to the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City where Marcos will deliver his SONA.

Tecson said security forces will also secure border control points in Metro Manila and other engagement areas.

The security contingent also includes personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, force multipliers and other volunteer groups.

To ease traffic, zipper lanes will be set up along Commonwealth Avenue.

Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, described the decision of security officials as an overkill and another massive waste of government funds.

He wondered why Marcos would want to surround himself with a phalanx of police and military forces.

“It does not make sense for one who claims to be a majority-elected president. The spending for these unnecessary security measures will be borne by taxpayers again,” Reyes said in a statement.

Stressing that they are not a threat, Reyes said organizers of mass actions during the SONA have applied for a rally permit for Batasan Road.

If granted by the Quezon City government, Reyes said this will minimize the disruption of traffic along Commonwealth Avenue.

Reyes said there were no untoward incidents when former president Rodrigo Duterte allowed protesters near the Batasang Pambansa complex during his SONAs in 2016 and 2017.

Instead of deploying thousands of security personnel, Reyes said the government should respect their right to peaceful assembly.

He said people should listen to their nine-point People’s Agenda for Change, a set of fighting demands and proposals to address the worsening crisis in the country due to the high prices of fuel, food and other basic commodities.

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