PNP says not against free speech, just ‘wary’ of left-leaning groups joining rallies during inaugural
MANILA, Philippines — A high-ranking official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has clarified that the organization is not against the free speech of the masses, just worried about left-leaning groups joining opposition rallies during the inauguration of the President-elect and Vice President-elect.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, PNP director for operations Maj. Gen. Valeriano de Leon downplayed accusations from activist groups that the police force is trying to control the content of the rallies.
This came after several opposition groups asked why acting police chief Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. would only allow rallies if they are shouting ‘long live’ to President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.
“We have no problem on that dahil meron namang (karapatan) ang mga kababayan na gustong mag-air ng kanilang mga hinaing at issues,” de Leon told reporters in Camp Crame.
(We have no problem with that because our fellow Filipinos have the right to air their sentiments on issues.)
“But what we are worried about is ‘yong mahaluan ito ng mga (the possibility that it would be attended by) left-leaning groups,” he added.
De Leon repeated his advice to protesters to stay in freedom parks for protest movements, especially if no permit to rally has been granted by local government units.
He explained that this is because some roads in Manila will be closed for security reasons for Marcos’ inauguration at the National Museum in Manila on June 30 — and Vice President-elect Sara Duterte’s own inauguration in Davao City on June 19.
As it is, these measures would already cause traffic — and rally attendees may worsen these conditions if allowed to march along the road.
“Now we do not allow rallyists to disrupt the proceedings, especially if they assemble in areas where they will stop the flow of traffic. There will be road closures and expectedly, magkakaroon ng (there would be) congestion in some parts of the streets ng Metro Manila and Davao,” he stressed.
“So kung ito ay makaka-disrupt ng flow of traffic […] of course since this is a historic event tulad ng sabi nila and the world is watching us, i-allow natin sila doon sa tamang lugar tulad ng freedom parks. Marami tayong freedom parks na identified in Metro Manila and we have also in Davao. So we will allow them […] but for them to get out of that area and march towards the event place, ay maaring i-advise na lang din sila na ‘wag nang gagawin ‘yan,” he added.
(So if this would disrupt traffic flow, of course since this is a historic event and the world is watching us, we would just allow rallies in appropriate areas like freedom parks. We have a lot of freedom parks here in Metro Manila and in Davao. So we will allow them, but for them to get out of that area and march towards the event place, we would just advise them not to do that.)
Security for the inauguration has been upped as more police officers would be manning the programs — from initial figures of 2,000 PNP personnel to over 3,700 for Duterte’s inauguration 19, and over 6,200 for Marcos’ program.
De Leon said on Tuesday that this does not yet include personnel from other uniformed services like the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard.
The issue of whether the government should allow rallies has been the subject of arguments between the police force and activist groups, as the latter insist that Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 allows for peaceful protests.
PNP however stressed that protests are only allowed in public spaces, apart from freedom parks, if the local government unit on the respective area issues a permit.
This is not the first time police and activists’ opinions on rallies clashed: during Congress’ proclamation of winners in the 2022 presidential race, Bayan and other progressive movements condemned the alleged violent dispersal of protesters at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) grounds.
Danao answered by saying that protesters were doused with water because they kicked the riot shields carried by police officers manning the area.
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