MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill "strengthening the right of the people to free expression."
House Bill 6834 was sponsored by Agusan del Sur Rep. Ma. Valentina Plaza and introduced by then Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, AMIN Rep. Makmod Mending Jr and Masbate Rep. Maria Vida Bravo.
Plaza chairs the sponsoring committee, the House Committee on People's Participation.
The bill seeks to ensure the people of their constitutional rights to free speech of expression, to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
It includes in the coverage of the public assembly any rally, demonstration, march, parade, procession or any other form of concerted action for the purpose of presenting a lawful cause, expressing an opinion on any issue and protesting against or influencing any issue or program of the government.
The bill excludes some assemblies such as picketing and other action in strike areas by workers and the political meetings or rallies during election campaign periods.
It requires any person or group which intends to hold a public assembly to serve a notice to the local chief executive who has jurisdiction over the public space.
It mandates the mayor or any official acting in one's behalf to reroute traffic in public thoroughfares to prevent public inconvenience.
It enumerates the responsibilities of the leaders and organizers who shall be required to execute an undertaking to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of a public assembly
The bill prescribes the interference of law enforcement authorities and private individuals in the holding of a public assembly.
It imposes an additional prohibition such as arbitrary and unjustified filing of action to enjoin a public assembly or arbitrary and unjustified refusal to accept or acknowledge receipt of notice, discharge of firearm by any law enforcement agency or any person to disperse the public assembly, and arbitrary and unjustified dispersal of public assembly without notice.
It imposes punishment for violations by up to imprisonment for up to 6 years.
It also establishes or designates a suitable freedom park or hall in every city or municipality for public assembly.