Groups urge public to join SONA protests amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — At least two senators and several progressive groups on Friday urged the public to unite and join physical and online protests in the run-up to and on the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27, with human rights lawyers joining the main rally to attend to possible human rights violations against protesters.
In a joint press conference on Friday, at least 26 representatives from progressive groups and various sectors announced their plans for holding individual and shared rallies for the so-called “SONAgkaisa” protests against a number of issues, such as the government’s response to the coronavirus disease crisis, the denial of a 25-year franchise for media giant ABS-CBN, and the enactment of the controversial anti-terror law.
“Sa darating na SONA, magkakaroon tayo ng iba’t ibang mga kilos protesta para kalampagin ang gobyerno sa makupad nitong pagkilos, sa katiwalian, sa panggigipit, sa anti-terror bill, at iba pang mga mabibigat na usapin,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said.
(In the coming Sona, we will hold protests to call the attention of the government in its slow response to the pandemic, to corruption, harassment, the anti-terror law, and other crucial issues.)
Pangilinan said stronger unity among the people is needed to denounce the government’s actions on various issues, after a successful “mañanita” protest held on Independence Day on June 12, which was themed after the birthday celebration of National Capital Region Police Office chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas.
Senator Leila De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for what she called “trumped-up charges,” also issued a solidarity message for the Sona protests, saying the Filipino people do not deserve a government that is “oblivious to their needs and well-being.”
She said that the “vindictive, murderous, power-hungry, morally-bankrupt and abusive regime” of the Duterte government should be stopped from further inflicting sufferings on Filipinos.
“We cannot allow our country, a cradle of democracy, to fully become a pathocracy ruled by a psychopathic leader,” De Lima said in her message read by her representative.
Meanwhile, law dean Chel Diokno called on law students and the youth to also join SONA protests, saying human rights lawyers like him are ready to help in case human rights violations will happen during the rallies.
“Sa aking mga minamahal na kabataan, panahon na para marinig ng ating pamahalaan ang inyong malakas na boses,” said Diokno.
(To our beloved youth, it is time for the government to hear your loud voices.)
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said they will hold the main rally on the day of SONA in Quezon City, but the exact location will be announced next week as the group is only set to discuss guidelines of the protest to the Quezon City Police District on Saturday.
He said that human rights lawyers will join the protests and will be on “full mob” on the day of Duterte’s address.
This year’s main protest on SONA will be themed after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reyes.
“Sa mga dadalo, please come in your COVID-19-inspired attire at ipakita natin ang sama-sama nating paninindigan,” he said, as he also assured that health protocols such as physical distancing and the wearing of face masks will be observed during the rally.
(To those who will attend, please come in your COVID-19-inspired attire and let us show our unified stand.)
Other personalities during the briefing were former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, human rights lawyer Antonio La Viña, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, and former senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc.
Representatives from the Green Thumb Coalition, Karapatan, Kilusan ng Magsasakang Pilipino, Tindig Pilipinas, Migrante, Kilusang Mayo Uno, National Confederation of Transport Workers Union, Akbayan, Movement against Anti-Terrorism Act, ABS-CBN Union, PM Coalition, iDefend, Piston, Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa, Save Our Schools Network, Ranao Rescue Team, Nagkaisa, Lagablab LGBT Network, and Laban ng Masa were also present during the briefing.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said that physical rallies will be “temporarily banned” during the coronavirus crisis due to public health reasons.
He warned that “violations may give rise to penal sanctions under existing public health laws, and not under criminal laws.”
However, the National Union of People’s Lawyers explained that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the law on mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases do not have provisions allowing arrests due to alleged violations of quarantine rules or the prohibition on mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares, who is also a lawyer, likewise said there are no penal laws allowing arrests for those holding rallies or joining mass gatherings.
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