No guns, just truncheons: 6,000 cops to secure SONA 2018

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 11 2018 08:55 PM

FILE PHOTO: Police officers stand guard without riot gear as commanded prior to President Rodrigo Duterte's 2nd State of the Nation Address on July 24, 2017. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Over 6,000 police officers carrying only truncheons will be deployed to secure the Batasang Pambansa complex during President Rodrigo Duterte's third State of the Nation Address (SONA) later this month.

Metro Manila Police director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said Wednesday that anti-riot police will not carry guns, just batons as they will practice maximum tolerance amid expected protests during the President's annual report to the nation.

“Maximum tolerance. Wala kaming baril na dadalhin sa mga civil disturbance management but of course, 'yung mga security forces natin ay mayroon 'yun (baril) pero malayo sila. Hindi sila hahalo o malapit sa mga rally,” Eleazar said.

(We will not carry guns for civil disturbance management but of course, security forces will have guns but they will be far from the rally.)

He added that the Philippine National Police is also preparing for the possibility that Duterte will meet with protesters outside Batasang Pambansa, as he did last year.

Police will not place container vans and barbed wires on streets leading to Congress, as in previous practice to limit protesters' movement, Eleazar said. 

Instead, 13 sub-security task groups headed by the Quezon City Police District will be positioned from Commonwealth Avenue to the Batasan area. 

Police will also invite the Commission on Human Rights to send one representative per sub-security task group to observe the conduct of police work during the SONA protests. 

The move, Eleazar said, would serve as their defense in the event there will be "malicious" criticism against the police.

Police will meet with militant leaders on Saturday to discuss security measures for the July 23 SONA.

While there has been no reported threat related to the event, Eleazar said the PNP remains in full alert status.

"...Hindi tayo puwedeng maging kumpiyansa. Just like the previous SONA and other major events, laging nakahanda tayo,” Eleazar said.

(We cannot be confident. Just like the previous SONA and other major events, we have to always be ready.)