SONA protesters left with no place to go as soldiers, cops take over CDO park
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY –– Hours before President Duterte delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, sections of the Divisoria Park here was already filled with police officers, military personnel, and government workers.
This left the progressive groups and civil society organizations with nowhere to go as the area that used to be their stomping ground during protest actions became the venue for the government agencies to extend their services to the people.
Tents were set up as medical staff from the police, the Army, Department of Health, and other offices conducted the outreach program, such as medical check-up, giving of medicines, and tooth extraction.
Fully armed uniformed soldiers and policemen were seen in the park’s every corner early on Monday morning.
At the center of the park, musical bands from the PNP-10 and the 4th Infantry Division entertained the crowd and passersby with pop songs.
PNP-10 regional spokesperson Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa called the whole-day event the “Sona peace rally” and was organized to counter the anti-government protests usually held at the park.
According to Cagayan de Oro City Police Office information officer Major Evan Viñas, the purpose of the rally “is to educate the civilians on the danger and hazardous effect on participating mass protests, to disrupt their plans in creating public disturbances and to draw away from joining the rally on [Duterte’s] Sona 2019.”
Without a place at the park to stage their indignation, a group of about 50 protesters just went around the Divisoria Park carrying banners and streamers.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) regional chairperson Ophelia Tabacon said their failure to hold the protest action at the park was “alarming.”
“We are worried that the people will never know the real situation of our country, as only the progressive groups dare to tell the truth,” Tabacon said Monday.
She said ACT and other militant groups have been very vocal about the issues and controversies hounding the Duterte administration and holding a mass action at Divisoria was their way to inform the masses.
Tabacon said the Duterte administration has been doing everything to cover up the wrongdoings he and his favored officials have allegedly committed. /lzb
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