25K police on alert but authorities expect peaceful Sona rally
For the first time in the history of the State of the Nation Address (Sona), militant groups are allowed to hold their program just several steps away from Batasang Pambansa.
Such an agreement with the Philippine National Police seemingly speaks volumes of the goodwill between the groups and President Rodrigo Duterte, who won by a landslide during the national elections in May.
Police Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas, spokesperson of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on Monday said, “This is the nearest ever in the history of all the Sonas that have been delivered by any president…They are only 600 meters sway from where the venue is of the Sona.”
She said it was agreed upon during a conference with stakeholders.
“And as far as the contigencies are concerned, we are prepared for the worst although we are happy that since this morning it has been peaceful,” she told INQUIRER.net.
She said 6,000 policemen have been deployed to secure the venue of the Sona, Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
On the other hand, 25,000 policemen from all over Metro Manila are on standby “for any eventuality.” Military units were also deployed to assist the police.
Molitas was later seen giving away ice candy to rallyists resting under a shade.
She pointed out that this year’s rally is “a balance of both (groups).”
“We have the police around here, the cause-oriented groups and the supporters of the government coming together to witness the Sona,” Molitas said.
“We have Commission on Human Rights here. We have observers. We have the media also to bear witness to this historical event,” she added.
Asked if the police is now friendly with the protesters they used to be at odds with, she said, “We have always been friendly with the rallyists. It has always been our rule to maintain maximum tolerance.”
She also admitted that it helps that “we have members of a cause-oriented groups who are also members of the Cabinet of the President.”
Molitas said they are expecting that everyone will cooperate. She said they will not disperse the crowd. RAM/rga
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