Judge upholds ban on SONA protesters

By Janvic Mateo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 20 2013 02:45 AM | Updated as of Jul 20 2013 10:45 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A Quezon City judge denied Friday a petition of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) to stop the enforcement of a city government directive that banned protesters from holding a rally near the Batasang Pambansa Complex during President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Fernando Sagun denied the militant group's petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which was filed after the city officials denied the application of protesters for a permit to hold a rally along the Batasan Pambansa Road.

“After careful consideration of the allegations contained in the petition, along with its enclosures, this office is not inclined to issue the 72-hour restraining order prayed for by the petitioners in their petition and resolves to deny the same,” read the two-page order issued yesterday morning.

But owing to the urgency of the petition, Sagun immediately set the electronic raffle of the case.

The 11-page petition for review with an application for a TRO or preliminary injunction was raffled off to RTC Branch 77 Judge Germano Francisco Legaspi.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, national secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said Legaspi would now act on the application for preliminary injunction after Sagun denied the group’s plea for a 72-hour TRO.

On Tuesday, city department of public order and safety chief Elmo San Diego junked the application of Bayan and NUPL for a rally permit to protest near the Batasan Pambansa during Aquino’s SONA.

The city government also denied the bid of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, which asked permission to conduct its rally near the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue.

San Diego said they could not allow rallies near the Batasang Pambansa Complex as it may cause traffic congestion in the area. He said the decision was based on the assessment and recommendation of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD).

The denial prompted Bayan to file a petition for a TRO before the RTC on Thursday afternoon.

The militant group named San Diego, Mayor Herbert Bautista, and QCPD director Chief Superintendent Richard Albano as respondents.

In its petition, Bayan said the denial was a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the city government.

No threats

This developed as the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said there is no significant threat to the President’s SONA despite the plan of various groups to hold protest rallies near the Batasan Pambansa.

NCRPO director Chief Superintendent Marcelo Garbo Jr. said intelligence units have not monitored any threat from terrorist groups and criminal syndicates to the SONA.

“The threat that we monitored is very insignificant and should not be taken seriously,” said Garbo in an interview.

Garbo, however, placed the 18,000-strong NCRPO under full alert starting at 5 p.m. yesterday.

He also assured leaders of left-leaning groups that the police will observe maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters.

Garbo pointed out that the contingent from the NCRPO’s Crowd Disturbance Management would be there at the rally site, not to engage protesters in a violent confrontation but to secure them.

He said the NCRPO, however, would strictly enforce the no permit, no rally rule. – With Non Alquitran