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