MANILA - Protest actions will proceed Monday during President Rodrigo Duterte's penultimate State of the Nation Address, an activist group said Sunday despite a ban on mass gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protesters must wear face masks and observe physical distancing at the SONAgKAISA which will be held in UP Diliman in Quezon City, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, said Renator Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
"Hindi maaaring gamitin ang IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) guidelines para balewalain ang ating constitutional rights. Kakasuhan namin ang mga pulis na makikialam o manggugulo sa mga mapayapang pagtitipon bukas," he said.
(Government can't use IATF guidelines to brush off our constitutional rights. We'll file charges against policemen who will sow trouble in our peaceful gathering tomorrow.)
"Mas maayos pa ang physical distancing ng mga nasa rally kesa sa ginagawa ng gobyerno sa mga kawawa nating kababayan sa Rizal Coliseum."
(Our physical distancing measures are better than government's implementation at the Rizal Coliseum.)
The interior department, in a statement, told protest organizers "not to compromise the health and welfare of the people" as it cited that any kind of mass gathering during a global pandemic represents "a high risk" of virus transmission.
"We ask them not to be blind to the scientific evidence that mass gatherings are the fastest way for the virus to spread among their ranks which can then infect their families and ultimately their communities," said Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.
"We urge them to be responsible Filipino citizens and do their part in defeating this global pandemic. We ask them to be part of the solution and not the problem," he added.
"While we agree that the public has the right to peacefully assemble for the redress of grievances, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and such assemblies are subject to reasonable regulation of the authorities to protect public health and the general welfare."
Reyes said among issues groups will protest are government's supposed failure in addressing the pandemic, its lack of economic assistance, its prioritizing of the anti-terror law's passage and ABS-CBN shutdown, and its submission towards China and the US.
"Makatwiran ang pagprotesta sa harap ng lansakang panunupil sa ating karapatan. Galit ang mamamayan sa mga patakaran ng gobyerno at patong-patong na mga kasalanan nito sa mamamayan," he said.
(The protest action is justified in the midst of the suppression of our rights. The people are mad at the policies of government and its shortcomings.)
The protest action will feature a virtual effigy this year, a first in its annual tradition, Reyes earlier said.
"Tampok sa diorama ng SONA rally ang pagkakaisa ng mamamayan habang sinusunog ang Veerus sa Malacanang," he said Sunday.
(The diorama will feature the people uniting to burn the 'veerus' in Malacañang.)
Police will implement maximum tolerance on protesters, said Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar of the Joint Task Force against COVID-19.
"Nakahanda na po ang ating kapulisan. Nagbigay ng direktiba ang ating chief PNP para dun sa maximum tolerance, even though talagang may guidelines na ipinatutupad ngayon," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(Our policemen are prepared. Our chief PNP has given directives on implementing maximum tolerance even though there are guidelines being enforced right now.)
"Ang ating panawagan sa ating mga kababayan na intindihin ang pulis na nagpapatupad ng panuntunan na galing sa IATF. Ating panawagan na maging maayos, maging mahinahon ang mga gagawing kilos protesta o activities, at sana sang-ayon sa guidelines ng IATF."
(We call on the public to understand policemen who enforce the IATF guidelines and urge them to conduct orderly and peaceful protests according to IATF guidelines.)