PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa reminded the policemen deployed to maintain peace and order in areas where pro and anti-administration protests are being held to remain vigilant.
Over 6,000 cops were deployed in Metro Manila ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, July 24, at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.
"We have a big job ahead of us. Be ready for any contingency action that we may undertake in case of any problem. Huwag muna kayo umuwi, be sure na andyan pa kayo hangga't matapos ang Sona," he said during the PNP's flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame on Monday, July 24.
"You must be ready anytime. Masyadong fluid ang situation. Hindi natin alam so we have to continue hoping and praying na sana matapos itong Sona na walang violence na mangyari, walang masaktan both on our side and [on that] of the rallyists," Delas Rosa added.
Security measures have been relaxed in this year's Sona unlike in the previous years where the PNP installed container vans and barb wires to prevent protesters from getting to the Batasan Pambansa.
The policemen deployed in the areas near Batasan Pambansa were unarmed as agreed during a meeting between the PNP and the militants, said National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde.
Dela Rosa, who conducted an inspection near Batasan, reminded his men to observe maximum tolerance and maintain respect for human rights.
"The PNP is already, geared up to ensure peace and order and public safety at Batasan, Quezon City. I have reminded all the police personnel deployed in Batasan to exercise maximum tolerance as they prepare for major rallies today," he said.
He urged the protesters to treat the policemen the way they wanted to be treated.
"As we respect the rights of those who express their grievances, opinions, they should also respect the rights of those who are just doing their job in preserving the peace and enforcing the law," he said. "Actions that prejudice the life, liberty, or cause injury to another is unacceptable in a democratic society," he added.
The PNP has set up a stage complete with sound system in front of the Corazon Aquino High School, situated at least 100 meters away from the South gate of the Batasan Pambansa, which protesters can utilize.
Quezon City Police District Director Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar said that portalets and medical stations are available in the area, which is part of the facilities they promised to the protesters.
"Walang reason for them not to follow the commitment. Otherwise, publiko na ang magsasabi binigay na ang lahat and yet hindi pa sinunod. Walang reason para hindi namin gawin ang dapat namin gawin para ma-control ang situation," Eleazar said.
Eleazar said contingency and crowd dispersal management teams are on standby in case protesters refuse to follow their agreement.
Around 10 a.m., militant groups started converging along Commonwealth Avenue and marched towards the IBP Road around 12 noon.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said unlike their last year’s Sona rally, they will show defiance over Duterte's unfulfilled promises when he took office last year.
He said they will protest the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the cancellation of the peace talks with the rebels.
"Pugita ng Lagim", a giant effigy of an octopus with the flag of the United States on top of a military tank which represents the US' control over the Philippines despite the administration's current foreign policy, will be used during the protest. (SunStar Philippines)