Rights groups: SONA protests to push through despite ban

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Several groups will push through with their planned protests on the day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address despite the government’s ban on mass gatherings on the said event.

At least six groups – Bayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Sentro, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan and Partidong Manggagawa – have said they will push through with the planned rallies.

The local government of Quezon City announced Friday that following the Department of Interior and Local Government’s advisory on Thursday, “all applications for permits to organize or hold public assemblies shall not be processed.”

Previously, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said SONA protests will ben allowed as long as they secure permits from the city government.

PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac reminded protesters that holding a rally along Commonwealth Avenue leading to Batasan is not allowed. Protesters could proceed with their activities to the University of the Philippines-Diliman campus instead.

On Saturday, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya announced that they just “cascaded” down the COVID-19 inter-agency task force’s rule against large gatherings to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“Since we are in the middle of a pandemic, any form of mass gathering is prohibited. That includes rallies and demonstrations,” Malaya said.

However, Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes asserted that the 1987 Constitution supersedes the DILG advisory reiterating the COVID-19 inter-agency task force’s policy against large gatherings.

“Hindi po batas ang IATF guidelines at hindi po ito mataas sa ating Konstitusyon,” he said.

[Translation: IATF guidelines are not laws, and these are not higher than the Constitution.]