Strictly no to Independence Day rallies -- PNP

PHILIPPINE National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday said he has ordered the strict enforcement of the ban on any form of mass gathering duing today’s celebration of Independence Day.

The PNP chief earlier urged the public not to engage in mass protests while the country is fighting COVID-19 and is enforcing strict social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the killer virus.

“The Philippine National Police will strictly enforce the prohibition on any form of mass gathering during the celebration of  the 122nd 'Araw ng Kalayaan. We will strictly enforce the IATF protocols. We appeal to the public, especially to organized groups, to avoid mass gatherings as we celebrate this important day," the PNP chief said.

The nation is celebrating its 122nd Independence Day with simple rites at the Rizal Park in Manila with the theme "Kalayaan 2020: Towards a Free, United, and Safe Nation”.

Based on new pronouncements of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infection Diseases (IATF-MEID), only 10 persons will be allowed to participate in the commemoration rites at  Rizal Park as part of protocols under the General Community Quarantine.

The PNP will hold simultaneous flag-raising ceremonies at the PNP National Headquarters in Camp Crame and in all 17 Police Regional Offices, to be attended by a limited number of personnel only.

Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar also warned would-be protesters they will face arrest if they join street demonstrations today in complete defiance of quarantine protocols.

Eleazar, also the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, however said the police will exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with today’s would-be protesters.

“Our men on the ground are under instructions to ask protesters to voluntarily disperse. However, if they will be found violating health protocols, we will be compelled to disperse them,” he said

Lt. Gen. Eleazar said police will also move to arrest leaders of the protesters if they defy legal orders for them to follow the GCQ. Violators would be facing charges for disobedience and resistance to lawful orders from agents of a person in authority, he explained.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduard M. Año earlier reminded the public that under the GCQ, all forms of mass gatherings are still prohibited.

“We have a lot of new COVID-19 cases and we are still under GCQ. We still cannot do what we normally do,” the DILG chief said.

Sec. Año said there were other ways of voicing protest that would not violate health protocols meant to control the spread of COVID-19, one of which is thru the conduct of online protests.