The local government of Quezon City has allowed progressive groups to conduct their protest march and assembly on July 25 ahead of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA), parallel to a party-cum-concert of groups allied with “BBM” near the Batasang Pambansa.
Acting on the directive of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, officials of the Department of Public Order and Safety, City Epidemiology and Surveillance, and Task Force on Transport and Traffic Management met with QC Police District Director Brig. Gen. Remus Medina and the city’s Department of Interior and Local Government director Manny Borromeo.
They discussed the appeal for reconsideration of militant group Bayan Muna regarding rally permits for the upcoming SONA, which were initially denied by the Philippine National Police.
The city officials earlier met with Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., Obet de Castro, lawyer Carlos Montemayor Jr. of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, Sanlakas leader Flor Santos, and lawyer Jose Pedrosa and Lieu Razos of the Philippines Build Better Movement.
“The focal point of the discussion was how to uphold the fundamental constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly and free speech, while simultaneously ensuring public order and safety,” the QC government said in a statement.
Based on these dialogues, the local government decided to allow progressive groups to conduct their march and assembly along Commonwealth Avenue (eastbound) up to the corner of Tandang Sora Avenue on Monday.
The PBBM and allied groups will also be allowed to conduct their program along Interim Batasan Pambansa Road near Sinagtala Street, Barangay Batasan Hills.
The city government will suspend classes on all levels on Monday to give way to the SONA and to avoid inconveniencing students who may find transportation difficult.
“Quezon City-based businesses are likewise highly encouraged to do the same, or adopt work-from-home arrangements, in order to ease mobility requirements and congestion,” the statement added.
“We are also reminding organizers of the activities to follow minimum health protocols, such as wearing face masks, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as to discipline their ranks and finish their activities on the agreed time. For their part, the PNP has agreed to exercise maximum tolerance throughout the day’s activities,” it added.
Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Col. Ramon Zagala said the group is heightening security measures to ensure the safety of Marcos, the First Family, and all SONA attendees.
Over 21,000 police officers will be deployed for the security of the annual event, the Philippine National Police’s National Capital Region Police Office earlier said.
House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza earlier said the House of Representatives is expected to be at full capacity during Marcos’s first SONA.
This would be the first time that Congress will be allowed at full capacity since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Police Maj. Gen. Valeriano De Leon, PNP director for operations, said stricter security measures will be implemented especially around the Batasang Pambansa.
“We are asking for understanding from the public… These security measures are necessary to ensure the safety of everyone,” said De Leon.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has already released its traffic rerouting plan for Monday.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will be enforcing a limited no-fly zone in the areas around the Batasang Pambansa from July 23 to 25, including drones.
The House of Representatives has been placed on lockdown as part of security measures ahead of the SONA. The lockdown period began
Thursday and will last until Sunday, July 24.
“Only authorized personnel will be allowed entry to the House of Representatives premises. For this purpose, heads of secretariat offices shall submit to the Office of the Secretary General (OSG) the names of their essential personnel, with corresponding ID numbers, who will report for work on the lockout days,” the House memorandum stated.
During the lockout dates, the PSG will conduct a K-9 security sweep of all congressional offices. The offices will be sealed and will be made available for use again on July 25.
Metro Manila police director Maj. Gen. Felipe Natividad said they will not act against protests and other mass gatherings provided they are in the right place at the right time and done “in the right way.”
“In fact, we guarantee that we will uphold and protect these rights vested upon our people and we will even be there to ensure the safety and security of those who will participate in their program,” said Natividad.
“This however is not without reservation. The organizers and leaders of these protests must ensure that their programs are conducted in accordance with the law. Freedom parks are the best option for them for want of further requirements but if they wanted to go beyond the area covered by such, they must secure the necessary permit from the local government unit,” he added.
The PNP also reminded firearms owners that a gun ban is in effect in Metro Manila starting Friday, as part of security measures for SONA. PNP director for operations, Maj. Gen. Valeriano de Leon said the gun ban, which will last until July 27, coincided with the activation of the Task Force Manila Shield.