Malacañang warns public vs. outdoor protests amid quarantine restrictions

Malacañang on Thursday warned the public against the conduct of outdoor protests amid the implementation of nationwide quarantine restrictions to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said individuals who are planning to join illegal mass actions will be dealt with.

Roque said Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, as well as local ordinances, prohibits the conduct of mass gatherings amid the government’s strict directive for the public to heed the quarantine protocols amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Meron pong mga ordinansa na nagpapapataw ng parusa para doon sa hindi nago-observe ng social distancing. So hindi lamang po batas iyan (There are ordinances that impose sanctions against those who are not observing social distancing. So, it’s not only the law [that prohibits the conduct of mass protests]),” he said.

Roque issued the statement after lawyers’ group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) claimed that peaceful protests during the quarantine period are legal.

“Mali po sila (They are wrong),” he said, reacting to the NUPL’s remarks.

Roque said the directive against agitators and organizers of outdoor protests is “equally binding and enforceable.”

Several mass demonstrations have been held despite the quarantine rules imposed by the government.

Police earlier warned that people sowing disorder will be arrested and charged with violation of RA 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act; RA 11469; Presidential Proclamation 922 or the State of Public health Emergency in the Philippines; and Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code for disobedience to persons in authority.

NUPL claimed Thursday that protesters cannot be arrested based on RAs 11469 and 11332.

It also cited the 1987 Constitution which states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

NUPL likewise said the 1985 Public Assembly Act of Batas Pambansa 880 ensures the Filipinos’ rights to hold peaceful rallies.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa on Thursday urged the public and various groups to refrain from holding mass gatherings in commemoration of the country’s 122nd Independence Day on Friday.

“On the part of the PNP, we will strictly enforce the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) protocols,” he said.

Based on new pronouncements of the IATF, only 10 persons will be allowed to participate in the commemoration rites at the Rizal Park in Manila in compliance with general community quarantine protocols.

This year’s Independence Day celebration carries the theme “Kalayaan 2020: Towards a Free, United, and Safe Nation”. (PNA)

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