PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday said two members of the Manila Police District seized placards and other protest materials carried and being brandished inside Quiapo Church by a group of Akbayan members upon the request of church authorities.
The PNP chief also brushed off claims by members of Akbayan that the placards were inside their bags since there were videos and pictures of them displaying the materials while a Holy Mass is ongoing ahead of the 5th State-of-the-Nation-Address of President Duterte last Monday.
Gen. Gamboa said Quiapo Church authorities spotted the group of persons displaying the ‘No to Anti-Terrorism Law’ placards at the height of the mass prompting them to call the attention of policemen deployed in the area.
“We just behaved in accordance to the request of the Church. We don’t just do things. That’s why I don’t consider that as a misbehavior. As a matter of fact, we were commended that doing so and maintaining peace and order in a religious activity—napuri kami ng no less than the archdiocese," he said.
Manila Police District director, Brigadier Gen. Rolando Miranda, said their investigation showed that the placards were brought inside the Quiapo Church by supporters of opposition Senator Riza Hontiveros who happened to be a former Akbayan party-list representative.
The group reportedly initially wanted to hear mass at the Manila Cathedral but were not allowed entry into the area after they were found to be carrying placards.
Gen. Gamboa maintained that content of the placards is "entirely out of the topic.”
"It’s not even the placards, the contents, for which they were confiscated. Ang behavior was that dini-display nila. Hindi naman show of expression iyon of a religious belief. It’s some other thing," he said.
He also welcomed reports that the Akbayan would file charges against the policemen who confiscated their placards. "They’re welcome to do so. It’s a free country,"Gen. Gamboa said.
However, the PNP chief and National Capital Region Police Office director, Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas called on the public to respect the solemnity of mass being heard inside churches.
"People should be able to separate politics and religion," he said in hitting the group of people who carried their placards inside Quiapo Church instead of leaving them in their vehicles and allowing themselves to be photographed while brandishing them at the height of the holy mass.