MANILA -- The head of the Philippine National Police on Wednesday urged the University of the Philippines to refrain from exercising its chartered independence too much after its Diliman campus hosted one of the biggest protests for President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address this week.
Organizers estimate that some 10,000 protesters from around 90 groups flocked to the "SONAGkaisa" rally at UP's Quezon City campus last Monday, despite a ban on mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"Sinasabi namin, kung gusto magprotesta, sa UP. But of course, UP, tingnan n’yo rin doon because you should police your own activities there. Huwag n’yo masyadong i-exercise iyong chartered independence n’yo," said PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa.
"The police will just be there to react kung kailangan niyo," he said in an ANC interview.
Before the protest, UP Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Dr. Aleli Bawagan said PNP personnel cannot enter the campus, which would be secured by the university's own police force.
Thousands of activists against the passage of the Anti-Terror Law also flocked to UP-Diliman last June 12. They dubbed the event as Independence Day "mañanita," an apparent jab at Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, whose pre-dawn birthday serenade allegedly violated a 10-people limit on gatherings.
Hours ahead of the SONA last Monday, police reportedly arrested 34 protesters in Metro Manila, including 5 jeepney drivers who were on their way to the UP rally.
They were arrested due to violation of health and quarantine protocols, said Gamboa.
"Those who were detained, those were charged were not charged because they exercised their freedom of expression," he said.
Police had coordinated with the Quezon City treasurer so it could have an extension office in police stations and fast-track the payment of fines so those arrested would not need to stay there unnecessarily, said the official.
Protesters can assemble in freedom parks or other areas permitted by local officials. They should observe physical distancing and wear anti-virus masks, he said.