MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City court has denied a petition from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan for a temporary restraining order against the Quezon City government which has banned the holding of demonstrations on approaches to the House of Representatives during President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address on Monday.
Judge Germano Francisco Legaspi of Regional Trial Court Branch 77 pointed out that the Quezon City measure does not stop the petitioners from enjoying their right to peaceably assemble.
The judge’s two-page order was issued Friday evening after an afternoon hearing attended by city officials and Bayan representatives.
“After due consideration, the court finds no extreme urgency for the issuance of the (TRO) prayed for,” the judge said.
Last week, Elmo San Diego, head of Quezon City’s Department of Public Order and Safety, denied Bayan’s request for a permit to hold a protest rally on Batasan Road during President Aquino’s annual address to the nation.
San Diego said the areas of Batasan Road and Commonwealth Avenue were “no rally zones” and suggested that Bayan’s rally be held on a football field near the Quezon City Hall, which is several kilometers away from the House of Representatives.
He cited possible traffic jams and sanitation concerns in denying the group’s request for a rally permit. This prompted Bayan to seek court action against the City Hall directive.
Named as respondents were San Diego, Mayor Herbert Bautista and Quezon City Police District director Chief Supt. Richard Albano.
In his order, Legaspi noted that Bayan was not “totally prohibited” for exercising its right to assemble.
The judge pointed out San Diego’s suggestion of the City Hall freedom park as an alternative.
“Their planned activity was merely regulated on account of a serious traffic problem. Petitioners can still exercise their right at another place,” the judge said, adding, “Petitioners should understand that the exercise of their rights is not without limits.”
Contrary to the petitioners’ argument, a request for a rally permit can be turned down not just due to “clear and present danger.”
“Among others, the law allows a mayor not to grant a permit on the ground of public inconvenience,” Legaspi said.
Sought for comment, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said: “We plan to assert our rights on Monday… If the courts fail to uphold the rights of the people, it falls on the people to assert their rights.”
Aside from Bayan’s request, the city government also denied a request of the Freedom from Debt Coalition to conduct a separate rally near the Ever Gotesco mall on Commonwealth Avenue.