TWO platoons consisting of 120 police officers from the Regional Mobile Force Battalion and 80 police officers from the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) will be deployed in different areas in Cebu City where protesters are expected to gather during the final State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 26, 2021: outside the Department of Labor and Employment 7, near the CCPO headquarters on Gorordo Ave., the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda, Colon St. and Plaza Independencia.
CCPO Deputy Director for Operation Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla said they have raised the alert status to full alert for the President’s Sona. The full alert status will be downgraded after the President delivers his Sona.
Parilla said they will strictly implement health protocols like wearing of masks and the observance of social distancing because Cebu City is experiencing a three-digit increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.
The police official said they will try to disperse militant groups if the City’s Emergency Operations Center decides to ban rallies.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Guillermo Eleazar said the Quezon City Government has issued a permit for the conduct of pickets during the Sona.
Eleazar said the protests were allowed on the following conditions: protesters will follow minimum health protocols such as wearing of face masks and face shields and observing physical distancing; they must stay only in allowed areas; and no children and senior citizens will be allowed to join the program.
Eleazar said protesters will gather at around 9 a.m. in three areas: at the University of the Philippines compound, in front of the Commission on Human Rights office and in front of the National Housing Authority at the Quezon City Circle.
They will then do a unity march along Commonwealth Avenue toward St. Peter Chapel for the culmination of the event.
“What we have to do is to check or monitor kung sinusunod nila ang mga napag-usapan,” said Eleazar.
“Ito ay pagbalanse sa sitwasyon ngayon. Hindi po ordinaryo ngayon dahil meron tayong pandemic lalo na ang Delta variant. On the other hand ‘yung ating constitutional right lalo na yung freedom of expression, ‘yan po ay binabalanse natin. We also considered the existing guidelines of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” he added.
In a virtual press conference on Saturday, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesman Teddy Casiño said they will police their ranks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Among the groups that said they will join Monday’s pickets are Bayan, iDefend, Movement Against the Ati-Terrorism Act, Kabataan party-list, Sanlakas, Akbayan, Karapatan, Gabriella, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Piston, Kadamay, Agham, Sandugo, Save Our Schools Network, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, One Voice One Faith, Gabriela, Movement Against Tyranny, and Concerned Artists of the Philippines.
Eleazar said they have yet to monitor any security threat.
National Capital Region Police Office Director Vicente Danao Jr., for his part, said telecommunications signal will be jammed in parts of Quezon City during the Sona as part of security measures.
He urged progressive group leaders to keep a list of the attendees for contact tracing purposes.
The PNP has enforced a gun ban from July 21 to 28 in Metro Manila.
Eleazar said only members of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines who are performing official duties and in agency-prescribed uniform will be allowed to carry firearms outside residence during the said period.
A total of 15,000 police personnel will be deployed to maintain peace and order in Quezon City.
“As usual, our police will exercise maximum tolerance but at the same time we are appealing to the militant groups to do their share and police their ranks to ensure a peaceful and orderly Sona. Of course, our police are always alert and would not hesitate to use legal force if the protesters become unruly,” Eleazar said. (AYB / KAL / TPM / SunStar Philippines)