PNP to strictly enforce IATF order banning SONA rallies

THE Philippine National Police today will fully enforce the order of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATM-MEID) to ban all pro and anti-government rallies during the 5th State-of-the-Nation-Address of President Duterte as part of its effort to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 virus.

As such, all protest rallies and demonstrations won’t be allowed in Metro Manila and other areas under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine or General Community Quarantine. The same will be implemented in Cebu City and in San Fernando City in La Union which has reverted back to Enhanced Community Quarantine amid an upsurge in COVID-19 cases, the Journal Group learned.

Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año has ordered the PNP headed by General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa and the Joint Task Force COVID Shield under Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar  to instruct their men to  stop jeepneys and buses carrying protesters from the provinces from entering Metro Manila which remains to be the center of COVID-19 in the country.

The directive will be implemented by policemen manning Quarantine Control Points in the National Capital Region Police Office as well as regions directly leading to the metropolis particularly the Police Regional Office 3 in Central Luzon, PRO4-A in Calabarzon region, PRO1 in Ilocos-Pangasinan region, PRO2 in Cagayan Valley and PRO5 in Bicol region.

The DILG chief also ordered all mayors in MECQ and GCQ areas to strictly comply with IATF Resolution No. 57 issued last July 21 which strictly reiterated that mass gatherings such as but not limited to movie screenings, sporting events and other entertainment activities, community assemblies and non-essential work gatherings are prohibited, subject only to very limited exceptions  stated in Section 4, Paragraph 12 of the Omnibus Guidelines on the implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines as amended.

As such, local chief executives in Metro Manila and other areas under ECQ, MECQ or have been directed to refrain from issuing permits for rallies and demonstrations in time with the President’s SONA  in order to further promote the health and safety of the public.

Sec. Año ordered all DILG regional directors to monitor and submit to  his office the compliance of LGUs to the IATF directive amid protests from militant and progressive organizations that the order is a violation of the people’s right to assembly and peaceful protest.

Militant groups however said they will push through with their planned protest actions on Monday but will observe health protocols such as wearing of face masks and social distancing.

National Capital Region Police Office director, Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas said they will be deploying at least 5,000 policemen to help guard the event at the Batasan Pambansa complex with officers under orders to fully exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with demonstrators.

Sinas stressed that movement of protesters along Commonwealth Avenue would be prohibited and that the rallyists will be given until 12 noon to peacefully disperse.

The official however said t they have been ordered by Gen. Gamboa to allow peaceful gatherings inside the University of the Philippines compound in Quezon City as long as no law will be violated by the protesters.

Gambo tells protesters: Do it online Gen. Gamboa said they are not trying to suppress freedom of speech but in an effort to help prevent the possible spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus as a result of big social gatherings, he has urged all kinds of protesters in the country to just do it online.

He issued the call amid the daily protest actions taking place outside the  main compound of ABS-CBN which has been closed after being disenfranchised by the House of Representatives as well as planned anti-SONA protest actions today.

The PNP chief said the public should take into consideration the threat brought by the COVID-19 pandemic which has already infected over 67,000 individuals in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

“Doon naman sa may mga planong mag-protesta again lalo na dito sa SONA, nakikiusap lang kami na kung puwede just do it online because these are not ordinary times.  Nakita niyo naman in the past SONA na inallow naman natin 'yung protest but now we have a specific situation which is itong pandemic," Gen. Gamboa said at a virtual press briefing yesterday.

The top cop expressed hope the public including protest leaders would heed his call. "It's not only for our own good but also for you and for others lalo na dito sa prohibitions ng mass gatherings," Gamboa said.