SONA 2020

Police chief to SONA 2020 protesters: ‘Just do it online’

Rambo Talabong
'We are requesting, if you can, just do it online. Because these are not ordinary times,' says Philippine National Police chief General Archie Gamboa

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Archie Gamboa called on protesters preparing for rallies on President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27 to hold their protests online instead.

In a news briefing on Monday, July 20, Gamboa noted that the PNP had been lenient with rallies attended by thousands in previous SONAs. This year is different, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic that has hit more than 67,000 people in the Philippines as of Sunday, July 19.

“We are requesting, if you can, just do it online. Because these are not ordinary times,” Gamboa said in a mix of English and Filipino.

In SONA protests, activist groups usually deliver a counterpoint to the president’s rendition of current events in his or her 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.

The PNP did not mention how it will respond to street protests, but it has established a record of arresting demonstrators, even those who follow health protocols.

On June 26, Manila police arrested 20 LGBTQI+ activists during the annual Pride March. It has also arrested over a dozen protesters in Cebu and in Laguna for holding programs against the controversial Anti-Terror Law. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.