MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City government has denied blocking an event for presidential aspirant former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, calling such allegations as “political theatrics.”
“Ang tanong ko nga e, nasaan ang letter na ni-reject ko ang iyong hiling na gamitin ang activity center (My question is, where is the letter that states I rejected the request to use the activity center)?” Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said in a press conference Tuesday.
“He took to social media to accuse us of having rejected the proposed rally for former Sen. Bongbong Marcos and Mayor Sara-Duterte, which is not the truth,” she added, referring to Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor.
Quezon City Attorney Niño Casimiro, who joined Belmonte at the press conference, also branded as “politics theatrics,” claims that the city was blocking the event.
Defensor is running against Belmonte in the 2022 polls for the Quezon City mayoral elections.
“There’s no issue as to biases kung may pinapaboran dito, that’s not true. Fake news po ‘yan (There’s no issue as to biases or we are favoring sides, that’s not true. That’s fake news),” he said.
“These are all just political theatrics on the part of the other party,” he added.
Belmonte read out to reporters four letters showing the exchange of the city government and Defensor regarding his request for necessary permits to hold an event organized by Malayang Quezon City organization “in cooperation” with the teams of Marcos and Duterte-Carpio.
In the first letter received by the city government on Nov. 26, Defensor requested the use of the “activity area” of the Quezon Memorial Circle (QMC) on Dec. 8 for a culmination ceremony.
The local government responded to Defensor on the same day, saying it “interposes no objection” to the lawmaker’s request provided that protocols set by the government’s pandemic task force are adequately implemented.
“Ang hiningi nila (What they are asking) is to culminate their ceremony inside the activity area of the Quezon Memorial Circle…There are many activity areas, and the one that is the biggest, the newest and the nicest is in fact what we offered to him,” Belmonte noted, referring to the Quezon Memorial Circle Covered Court.
She said the court could seat 3,000 people inside even with social distancing in place.
“It is a closed environment so that uninvited guests do not mingle with the invited guest,” she added. The city, in its letter to Defensor, also offered to deploy its security and traffic personnel to assist the organizers of the event.
In a response letter dated Nov. 29, Defensor thanked the city government for its “very prompt” response and reiterated the organizer’s commitment to follow safety protocols.
However, Defensor requested that the city government allow the use of the Liwasang Aurora instead of the court.
“When we made representations with the administration of the Quezon Memorial Circle, we were clear that we wanted the Liwasang Aurora as our venue,” he said, adding they were “assured” by QMC staff “three times” that there were no reservations on their preferred dates.
“We were therefore surprised a day after when the same staff told us that the Liwasang Aurora was booked for the whole December by the Quezon City local government,” Defensor’s letter read.
“Also, past rallies of the BBM-Inday Sara team have attracted huge crowds and a mere basketball court as a culminating venue for an even as big as the BBM-Inday Sara motorcade is impractical and would make it unrealistic for our team and yours to enforce the social distancing required by the IATF (Inter‑Agency Task Force for the Management),” it added.
Child-friendly safety zone
In the last letter presented by Belmonte, the city government explained to Defensor that while it was “open” to his latest request, it proposes that a coordination meeting on Dec. 2 be conducted first to “set ground rules to ensure the safety of park-goers and the strict observance of health standards.”
Further, the letter explained to Defensor that the Liwasang Aurora is a “child-friendly safety zone,” which is “reserved for children and their families to enjoy quality time with each other.”
“Many of the children in the park remain unvaccinated. Since you said in your letter that you want to draw crowds of supporters to the event, please be aware that the unvaccinated children might be exposed to the event-goers,” the letter read.
It added that the QMC covered gymnasium is not a “mere basketball court” but a “vast structure the size of two basketball courts and two volleyball courts.”
The letter pointed out that the gymnasium was previously used by the groups of Sen. Bong Go, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and other organizations, which were “satisfied” with the venue.
“However, since you are determined to use the Liwasang Aurora, it is imperative that we hold a meeting to plan the particulars and commit to undertakings to ensure the safety of the park goers, especially the unvaccinated children,” the city’s letter said.
Casimiro said the letters show that the city is not trying to block the event for the tandem of Marcos and Duterte- Carpio.
“Mali po ang sinasabi na meron tayong hinaharang [It’s wrong to say we are blocking the event]…Through ‘trapo’ style politics, naninira po, without anything to show. Let me remind the good congressman that he is also a representative of Anakalusugan. He should focus on COVID-19 response,” he said.
“Yun po ang dapat pinag-uusapan natin ngayon [That is what we should be discussing today], not the grant of permits or an alleged denial,” he added.
Further, Casimiro stressed the need for the coordination meeting since Defensor, in his Nov. 29 letter, requested the use of the park from Dec. 6 to 9.
“Sa pangalawang letter request, naging Dec. 6 to 9, wala pong nakalagay na oras (In his second letter request, it became Dec. 6 to 9, with no time indicated),” he said, noting that Defensor’s first letter only indicated Dec. 8.
“Gusto nilang gamitin itong naturang lugar na ito, isang child-friendly safety zone, ng apat na araw tapos walang nakasaad na oras [They want to use a place, which is considered a child-friendly safety zone] for four days and no time indicated],” he added.
The city government encouraged the Defensor’s camp to attend its proposed Dec. 2 coordination meeting to ensure the public’s safety.
The city government earlier stated on Nov. 28, condemning “insinuations being mongered by a local politician” that it prevented the holding of the event. It said the venue requested was “not [meant] for such activities.”
Defensor issued a statement on the same day to “disprove” what the city government said, citing videos of a 2016 miting de avance of the then tandem of Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo at the QMC.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Belmonte said the event, which was held pre-pandemic, happened while she was only the vice mayor at the time.
“I was just the vice mayor at that time. I do not make decisions of this nature…They are totally unrelated issues,” she added.