MANILA -- The Philippine National said Wednesday its officers seized placards and other protest materials from activists during a Mass in Manila this week "in accordance to the request of the church."
Contrary to the claim of protesters that the placards were inside their bags, police have photos showing the protest materials displayed during a Mass at the Quiapo Church on Monday, ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address, said PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa.
Church authorities asked policemen to confiscate the materials, he said.
"We just behaved in accordance to the request of the church
We don’t just do things. That’s why I don’t consider that as a misbehavior," he told ANC.
"As a matter of fact, we were commended that doing so and maintaining peace and order in a religious activity—napuri kami ng (we were praised by) no less than the archdiocese," he added.
The confiscated placards had slogans against the new Anti-Terror Law, which critics said could be weaponized to silence legitimate dissent against the government. Officials denied this.
The content of the placards is "entirely out of the topic" in the arrest, said Gamboa.
"It’s not even the placards, the contents, for which they were confiscated. Ang behavior was that dini-display nila. Hindi naman show of expression iyon of a religious belief. It’s some other thing," he said.
(The behavior in question was that they displayed it. That was not a show of expression of a religious belief.)
The Akbayan group said it would file charges over the incident.
"They’re welcome to do so. It’s a free country," the PNP chief said.
Gamboa urged the public to practice "utmost solemnity" in religious gatherings.
"People should be able to separate politics and religion," he said.