ALTHOUGH they have not monitored any threats as of yesterday, the Philippine National Police leadership has called on all protest groups set to march towards Batasan Pambansa where President Duterte will make his 4nd State-of-the-Nation-Address (SONA) today to guard their own ranks, respect the law and fully cooperate with troops deployed to ensure peace and order in and around the area.
PNP chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde welcomed all planned SONA protest rallies today but appealed to rally organizers to ensure that they won’t break the law and see to it that their protest actions would be peaceful and orderly.
“As President Duterte had said, he respects the right of persons to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as part of the country’s vibrant democracy. We fully support that and would say that all are free to air their grievance but please just don’t break the law and don’t impede the flow of traffic,” the PNP chief said.
National Capital Region Police Office director, Major General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said that as ordered by President Duterte and Gen. Albayalde, they will be exercising maximum tolerance in dealing with the protesters today and just like in the three previous SONAs of the former Davao City mayor, they will not be putting up container vans and barbed wires in the area and will ensure that members of the Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) units deployed won’t be armed with guns.
Eleazar had met with different protest group leaders and assured them that all security measures are in place even as police are under instruction to fully observe their operational procedures anchored on the protection of human rights when dealing with demonstrators. However, he called on leaders of various cause-oriented groups and militant organizations expected to conduct rallies today to fully cooperate with them and abide by the conditions they set to ensure a peaceful and orderly SONA.
Joined by Quezon City Police District director, Brigadier General Joselito T. Esquivel Jr., the NCRPO director also called on the protest group leaders led by BAYAN’s Renato Reyes to police their own ranks and see to it that they will follow all conditions set by authorities to prevent any untoward incidents that would affect the general situation in and outside the Batasan Pambansa where the President will address the nation.
A high security alert will be implemented in the area in the aftermath of the June 28 ‘suicide bombing’ in Indanan, Sulu and although no similar threats have been monitored by government intelligence agents, Eleazar said it will be up for the Presidential Security Group to decide whether to jam telecommunication signals, like in the previous years, within the vicinity of the Batasang Pambansa Complex.
Over 15,000 policemen joined by their ‘force multipliers’ have a contingency plan on unexpected situations, including if Duterte decides to show up before the crowd like he did in 2017. Eleazar admitted that it will be ‘more challenging’ if the President decides to repeat his 2017 unexpected move.
Esquivel said they have recommended to Q.C. Mayor Joy Belmonte the suspension of classes in schools in the city today. Lanes of some streets near Batasang Pambansa will also be closed to motorists depending on the volume of rallyists, according to Jojo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
As part of the NCRPO security measures, officers will be on guard against possible saboteurs during the projected rallies. Random checks will be conducted to prevent the presence of unauthorized persons carrying guns and other weapons in the area.
At least 6,000 policemen will be deployed in and around Batasan Pambansa just like the past three years where police watched for all possible threats including the possibility of saboteurs and even the presence of Islamic State-inspired terrorist groups in the country. The NCRPO will be getting help from the Police Regional Offices 3 and 4-A as well as a contingent from the PNP national headquarters.
Apart from the President, members of his Cabinet, the Vice-President, the Diplomatic Corps and other VIPs will be also fully protected by the PSG.
The Manila Police District headed by Brig. Gen. Vicente D. Danao will also continue to guard vital sites in the city including the Presidential Palace, Department of Justice, Supreme Court and the United States Embassy.
PNP Highway Patrol Group director, Brig Gen. Roberto B. Fajardo said they have deployed 72 motorcycle units and 36 mobile cars manned by 171 HPG personnel to ensure the security of convoy of high-profile visitors during the SONA.