PNP tells public: Avoid Independence Day mass protests amid GCQ

THE Philippine National Police headed by General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa will join the nation’s commemoration of the Philippines’ 122nd Independence Day today by honoring ‘front-liners’ who are key in helping prevent further spread of the deadly COVID-19 and calling on the public not to engage in mass protests which may literally pose danger to their health since it is a clear violation of social distancing rules.

PNP spokesman, Brigadier Gen. Bernard M. Banac last week said the public must not engage in mass protests while the country is fighting  COVID-19 and is enforcing strict social distancing measures to prevent the further spread of the killer virus.

Traditionally, Independence Day in the country is marked with celebrations and protests by anti-government groups. While different local government units and key government officials proudly raise the Philippine flag in simultaneous flag- ceremonies across the country including one at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite where the Philippine independence was declared, another at the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City and Rizal Park in Manila.

However, the celebration is usually disrupted by placard-bearing protesters who regularly demand ‘true freedom’ in the country. They are also expected to hit the new anti-terror bill in today’s simple celebration.

Today’s Independence Day celebration is expected to be very simple due to the General Community Quarantine although PNP units across the country specifically the National Capital Region Police Office headed by Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas will be watching for possible protest actions.

Last week, the NCRPO monitored several mass rallies, one held by militant groups protesting the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill outside the House of Representatives; another at the UP campus held by some 200 members of the Kabataan party-list, Anak-Pawis, Anak-Bayan and UP Alliance protesting the anti-terror bill; and another by a group of jeepney drivers along EDSA in Caloocan City.

“We were alarmed at the mass action and public assembly at UP Diliman campus  which was held while strict public health measures are still being implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Banac.

According to Banac, “as responsible Filipino citizens, we should avoid any opportunity for possible human-to-human transmission of a deadly virus that even UP scientists themselves are trying so hard to eradicate.”

“The mass action has compromised public health and welfare as well as the rallyists’ own safety. (Although) we support alternative means to exercise freedom of expression like what some labor groups did last May 1, in this time of public health crisis,  the safety of human lives is paramount,” Banac said.

The PNP leadership today will honor modern-day heroes including police ‘front-liners’ and health workers fighting COVID-19. They also include members of the Armed Forces, Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine Coast Guard, local government units and other ordinary Filipinos who are playing their small but significant role in  helping prevent the spread of the virus.

Officials said that although the Philippines is a free country, it still continues to fight lots of problems and challenges which include criminality, drug trafficking and corruption.

The PNP Drug Enforcement Group headed by Brig. Gen. Romeo M. Caramat Jr. last week led a major anti-narcotics operation in Marilao, Bulacan which resulted in the seizure of some P5.2 billion worth of shabu, the biggest made so far by the police force.

Gen. Gamboa has urged members of the 205,000-strong police force to continue serving the Filipino citizens and to continue the fight against criminality and illegal drugs. At the same time, he reiterated his call on the police to be serious in their ongoing internal cleansing program and help identify and arrest rogues in uniform.

Police are under orders to observe maximum tolerance in dealing with any kind of protest rallies in the country but said all violations and infractions will be fully addressed.