MANILA - An activist group on Sunday told policemen not to weaponize virus measures and urged local governments to allow protests in freedom parks when President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address on July 27.
"The nationwide protests, short and limited as they may be due to the pandemic, still fall under the peaceful exercise of our constitutional rights. Amid state terror and government neglect, we call on the people to resist, speak out and protest - online and offline," Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
"No one should be arrested for peacefully exercising their rights. No one should be arrested for violations of so-called quarantine guidelines that are not laws and do not carry penal provisions. The PNP should stop weaponizing the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases because it is NOT applicable to protest actions."
Reyes cited the Independence Day mañanita at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City, where participants were required to wear face masks, bring disinfectants and practice physical distancing with marshals and health volunteers present.
"We are proud of the discipline and concern showed by rally participants since the breakthrough mass actions in June. People looked out for each other and helped each other," he said.
"We have chosen to physically protest because of the intolerable attacks on our basic rights and freedoms - the passage of a terror law against dissent, the shutdown of a broadcast network and the massacre of thousands of jobs, and the failed response to the health and economic crisis. We are all called to make a stand during this difficult time in our nation's history."
Duterte is expected to physically deliver his SONA at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City amid quarantine measures imposed in the country to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Only 50 people will stay inside the plenary hall of the House of Representatives for the yearly occasion to ensure that physical distancing is observed, according to Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.