Quezon City (QC) Mayor Joy Belmonte said on Tuesday, July 21, that protests and demonstrations are allowed in the city during President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.
During a televised briefing aired on state-run PTV4, Belmonte said that protesters have to secure a permit to hold a rally, and should follow strict minimum health standards.
“We will allow to a limited extent demonstrations and protests because this has been the tradition for a very long time here in our city,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte, who had recovered from COVID-19, said that while they respect the right to expression and the right to air grievances, the city would impose strict protocols to would make sure that protesters follow the minimum health standards.
“We have the right of course to remind them or disperse them peacefully, kung nagiging public health hazard na sila (if they are becoming a public health hazard),” the mayor said.
Belmonte said they will release guidelines for the conduct of protests in the city, including the number of protesters allowed in an area, the time period, and the areas allowed for demonstrations.
SONA protesters usually emanate from different points in Quezon City and converge along Commonwealth Avenue, marching to the Batasan Pambansa.
On Monday, July 20, Philippine National Police chief General Archie Gamboa urged SONA protesters to hold their rallies online instead.
In SONA protests, activist groups usually deliver a counterpoint to the President’s report to Congress. The protests usually consist of marches and stage presentations, but Gamboa warned that mass gatherings continue to be prohibited under quarantine rules.
Malacañang had earlier said that despite the pandemic, Duterte will deliver his 5th SONA at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.
On Monday, July 20, the Philippines recorded 68,898 COVID-19 cases, including 1,835 deaths and 23,072 recoveries. – Rappler.com