Police chief to Manila democracy protesters – ‘Just do it online’

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Thousands of students brave the rain in a protest against the controversial new anti-terrorism law at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City, Manila, last month. Image: Jire Carreon/Rappler

By Rambo Talabong in Manila

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Archie Gamboa has called on protesters preparing for rallies on President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) next week to hold their protests online instead.

In a news briefing today, General Gamboa noted that the PNP had been lenient with rallies attended by thousands in previous SONAs.

This year is different, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic that has hit more than 67,000 people in the Philippines as of yesterday.

READ MORE: Activists back ‘mass for justice and peace’ ahead of SONA 2020

“We are requesting, if you can, just do it online. Because these are not ordinary times,” Gamboa said in a mix of English and Filipino.

In SONA protests, activist groups usually deliver a counterpoint to the president’s rendition of current events in his or her report to Congress.

The protests usually consist of marches and stage presentations, but General Gamboa warned that mass gatherings continue to be prohibited under quarantine rules.

The PNP did not mention how it will respond to street protests for this year’s SONA on July 27, but it has established a record of arresting demonstrators, even those who follow health protocols.

On June 26, Manila police arrested 20 LGBTQI+ activists during the annual Pride March. It has also arrested more than a dozen protesters in Cebu and in Laguna for holding programmes against the controversial Anti-Terror Law.

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