Street protests outlawed in Davao City
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Davao City Council has outlawed activities that would block the flow of traffic in this city, including street protests.
The members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod unanimously approved the ordinance, which was submitted for third and final reading on Tuesday, November 27, according to Davao City Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag.
Militant leaders here decried the passage of the ordinance as a curtailment of the people's right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, but Al-ag said it was not the case.
“What we prohibited is the blocking of the streets,” he said.
Al-ag said under the ordinance, rallies or protests are still allowed so long as they do not obstruct traffic flow.
He said what was being outlawed is the illegal closure of roads that would worsen the city's traffic situation.
Al-ag said illegal road closures, such as those caused by protests, have hampered the delivery of emergency medical services as well since ambulances are not spared from the traffic jams caused by the activities.
He said those planning to stage protests have the Freedom Park and other public places.
“They can conduct rally anywhere as long as they do not block the streets,” Al-ag added.
He said those violating the ordinance would be fined P5,000 or an imprisonment of not less that a year. Both penalties can also be applied “upon the discretion of the court.”
Al-ag clarified that what they have outlawed were unauthorized road closures. Road closures authorized by the city government or the national government due to road construction, traffic re-routing, emergency cases or local festivities are exempted.
Al-ag said the ordinance was prompted by an incident on October 22, where protesters stalled traffic along the Davao-Panabo Highway for several hours.
He said councilors decided to amend the original proposal, which sought to outlaw unauthorized traffic obstruction in the Panacan area, to make its scope citywide.
Mayor Sara Duterte had slammed the protesters following the massive traffic jam, and cited it as reason not to vote for militant party-list groups to the House of Representatives in 2019.
She said in a statement on October 23 that the public inconvenience caused by the protests "was an example of how these groups intend to govern should they be given the power to lead our government and the country." (READ: Sara Duterte steps up drive vs leftist party-list groups)
Meanwhile, Karapatan Southern Mindanao said the ordinance was passed without public consultation and would be questioned before the court.
“This is a clear manifestation of a political persecution to thwart democratic assertions,” said Karapatan Southern Mindanao spokesperon Jay Apiag.
Apiag said the ordinance violates the constitutional guarantee against any law curtailing the freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly.
Apiag agreed that last month's protest caused a massive traffic jam along the Davao-Panabo highway but pointed out that this was not the fault of of workers. The hours-long road standstill happened after authorities barred them from entering the city. – Rappler.com