MANILA, Philippines – From EDSA to Commonwealth Avenue, battalions of policemen stood in position hours ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22.
“The entire PNP is on full alert to address any situation that will require police action,” PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde said in an interview with reporters as he inspected cops along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
Of the 14,000 cops the Philippine National Police said it would deploy, around 9,000 were sent to Commonwealth Avenue and the area outside Batasang Pambansa, where Duterte would deliver his SONA.
The police closed between 1 to 3 lanes along Commonwealth Avenue because of planned protests there, as well as designated lanes for SONA VIPs.
Police said they expect the densest places of convergence to be along IBP Road, which leads to the Batasan Complex, and the part of Commonwealth Avenue in front of St Peter Parish, where a grand stage had been set up for a rally.
As of 12 pm on Monday, the police tallied the following areas with the corresponding number of protesters converging and holding programs:
- Sandiganbayan area – 700 pro-Duterte demonstrators
- House of Representatives area – 60 pro-Duterte demonstrators
- Commonwealth Avenue – 200 pro-Duterte demonstrators
- Commission on Human Rights – 300 demonstrators from Gabriela, Magsasaka, KMU, and Anakpawis
- St Peter Parish – 60 demonstrators from Socialista
- Kalayaan Avenue – 640 demonstrators from SANLAKAS, Southern Tagalog, PM Manggagawa, and Kilusang Pambansang Demokrasya
- National Housing Authority – 100 demonstrators from Bayan Muna
- Ellptical Road – 200 demonstrators from Gabriela Manila
- Philcoa Bridge – 50 demonstrators from Piston
Aside from the cops bearing shields and batons, the PNP also deployed intelligence agents to blend with the crowd. They were called to duty, Albayalde said, to protect – not harass – demonstrators.
Albayalde tried to make sure everyone was in place, going around checkpoints with Metro Manila top cop Major General Guillermo Eleazar and Bigadier General Joselito Esquivel.
Their rounds were not restricted to glares and call-outs, as the police generals also attempted to lighten the mood of their men by offering them a song after their inspection – Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”
The rest of the grand police deployment included cops stationed far from the Congress building, standing along and around EDSA, where various SONA guests were expected to pass through. Most cops were stationed near the historic EDSA Shrine.
Thousands of other cops continued with day-to-day operations, including anti-drug stings.
Asked whether the police were prepared should Duterte decide to speak with protesters again, Albayalde said while he hoped the Philippine chief wouldn’t do it this year, the PNP was prepared for any scenario. – Rappler.com
For highlights of President Duterte’s 4th SONA, check out our live blog.
For related stories, visit Rappler’s 2019 State of the Nation Address page.
Rappler takes a deeper look at the first half of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency – its highs and lows, its achievements and shortcomings:
Duterte Year 3: The Halfway Mark
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