Iloilo City mayor bans rallies during Dinagyang festivities
ILOILO CITY — Mayor Jerry Treñas of this city has banned any form of protests and display of “political colors” during the staging of the Dinagyang Festival this weekend that first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and Sen. Imee Marcos were expected to attend.
It was the first time in the over 50 years that the Dinagyang is being held that the city’s mayor has issued an executive order prohibiting the display of political slogans or propaganda materials as well as antigovernment slogans in any form during the festivities.
“I want to remind everyone that the Dinagyang Festival is both a religious and cultural event. It’s a neutral event where everyone can join. That is why political maneuvers have no place during the events,” he told the Inquirer over the phone on Friday to explain his issuance of Executive Order No. 009 on Jan. 18.
Among those expected to attend the Dinagyang Festival were the first lady and her children; and Senators Imee Marcos, Jinggoy Estrada, Francis Tolentino and Risa Hontiveros. Tourism Undersecretary Ferdinand Jumapao will represent Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, organizers said.
The Dinagyang Festival, now on its 55th year, is held every fourth Sunday of January in honor of the Santo Niño or the Holy Child Jesus.
No rally permits
In his executive order, Treñas directed the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to suspend the issuance of rally permits during the Dinagyang. But the mayor also stressed the ICPO was directed to exercise maximum tolerance should a protest action be held on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22.
“The police will only inform violators of my order. Basically, there won’t be any arrests,” he said.
The mayor also clarified that his executive order would not ban the usual fiesta greetings that bear the faces and names of local and national politicians.
Treñas called on those joining in the Dinagyang to enjoy the festivities, the first in-person celebration since it was reduced to an online event in 2021 and 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone wants to go out of their homes and celebrate this time around. We want everyone to enjoy and inform everyone that the economy has been reopened,” he said.
Bryan Bosque, deputy spokesperson for the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Panay Island, said the mayor’s order violated freedom of expression, adding: “You cannot restrict [protests] just because you are concerned with their effects, and based on our experience, we have joined Dinagyang lengthily bringing our political calls, but we don’t remember any negative effects on the conduct of the festival in the city.”
Commission on Human Rights in Western Visayas Director Jonnie Dabuco declined to say if the executive order was unconstitutional.
But, in a phone interview on Friday, he stressed: “Their reason may be that there would be no place [to hold a protest rally] or it may cause [heavy] traffic. But on the issue of suspending [rallies], they have to be able to justify that there is clear and present danger, and if they cannot approve that, that may be a clear violation [of the Constitution] as already stated by the Supreme Court in multiple cases.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM ADOR VINCENT MAYOL
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