2 lawmakers want 'no permit, no rally' law repealed

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 11 2014 09:00 AM | Updated as of May 11 2014 05:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Two party-list congressmen have filed a bill seeking to repeal a Marcos-era law containing the government’s “no permit, no rally” policy.

Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said their bill would scrap Batas Pambansa 880, enacted by the interim Batasan during the Marcos regime.

They said their proposal would “strengthen the right of the people to free expression, peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

“More often than not, authorities invoke the ‘no permit, no rally’ rule to justify the dispersal of rallies. The Marcos-period law has been the convenient excuse for state forces to suppress otherwise peaceful demonstrations, effectively curtailing the basic constitutional rights to assembly, free speech and petition of government for redress of grievances,” they said.

The two said the repeal of the “Marcosian relic” law would ensure untrammeled exercise of civil rights.

“The bill’s underlying premise is basic: the constitutional rights of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances are essential and vital to the individual and the collective strength and stability of the nation,” they said.

Under the bill, no permit would be required for any person or persons to organize and hold a public assembly in a highway, boulevard, avenue, road, street, bridge or thoroughfare, park, plaza, square and or any open space of public ownership where people are allowed access.

However, the organizers and leaders of the public assembly must inform and coordinate with the mayor or local authority regarding the agenda and details of the assembly.

They would also have to police their own ranks to prevent non-demonstrators from disrupting the event and avert molestation by demonstrators of the people not participating in the public assembly.

The bill prohibits law enforcement authorities from interfering with the holding of a public assembly but mandates them to adequately ensure public safety by deploying personnel under the command of a responsible police officer.

The police contingent would be stationed at least 200 meters away from the area of the activity.

The measure also prohibits the dispersal of a public assembly unless it actually becomes violent. No person would be arrested or punished for participating in a peaceful rally.

Under the present law, organizers of a rally are required to obtain a prior permit from the mayor, who would designate a place where a public gathering would not impede vehicular traffic.

Policemen are authorized to disperse an assembly that is not covered by a permit.