Roque denies pushing for penalties for rallies without permits

PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperon Harry Roque Jr. on Monday, February 11, denied that a measure he filed while he was a member of the House of Representatives sought stiffer penalties for unscheduled rallies.

Roque, a former Kabayan party-list representative, explained that the measure he filed was House Bill (HB) 3023 or the proposed act "ensuring the free exercise by the people of their right peaceable to assemble and petition the government."

Roque said the bill, which was filed on August 15, 2016, primarily intends to address the "mass or concerted action that is narrowly directed at the household, not the public."

He stressed that under HB 3023, protesters who will be prohibited from conducting rallies are those who "do not seek to disseminate a message to the general public, but to intrude upon the targeted resident, and to do so in an especially offensive way.”

The former congressman lamented that the bill he authored had turned out to be in an "unrecognizable form."

"It has come to my attention that I am being tagged as the alleged author of a bill punishing rallies without permits," Roque said in a statement.

"It is unfortunate that the bill I have filed that aims to protect the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances has been perverted to an unrecognizable form," he added.

Roque made the clarification after a report tagging him as primary author of HB 6834 has surfaced.

HB 6834 aims to replace Batas Pambansa 880 or the Public Assembly Act of 1985. The bill seeks to mandate rally organizers to serve a notice to the mayor three working days before the conduct of protest.

The measure also pushes for graver penalties of six months to six year imprisonment for rallies sans notice.

Voting 212-5, the House of Representatives approved HB 6834 on third and final reading. Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, one of the bill's proponents, voted against the bill during plenary approval on final reading.

In a recent statement, international group International Commission of Jurists slammed the "unlawful" measure seeking to regulate the peaceful conducrnof assembly.

Roque said he would have also voted against the measure just like what Zarate did, had he still been a member of the House of Representatives.

"I have always been an advocate for the freedom of expression, as is our Constitutional right," he said.

"Nowhere in the draft substitute bill that Rep. Zarate and I agreed to did it say that a stiffer penalty would be imposed for holding public assemblies at a time and place other than that approved by the mayor," he added. (SunStar Philippines)

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