By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) will deploy around 6,000 cops within the vicinity of Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Sunday ahead of the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte on Monday.
PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said all security measures are ready and the Security Task Force SONA is only finalizing the place of convergence of protest groups where they are expected to hold a united rally.
“We will deploy our forces the day or the night before SONA. Although accordingly, the place where the protest rally will be held is still being finalized and by today [Saturday] or tomorrow, we will determine where they really want to conduct the protests,” Albayalde said at the sidelines of the “People’s Day sa Kampo Crame” in celebration of the 23rd Police Community Relations (PCR) Month.
However, Bagong Alyansa Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes earlier announced that they will hold a “People’s SONA” in front of the Saint Peter’s Parish Church on Commonwealth Avenue, instead of the Batasang Pambansa complex.
Albayalde also said they have yet to get the estimate of the number of protesters that will participate in the united rally.
However, if they are to base it on last year’s situation, he said around 7,000 to 10,000 are expected to attend the protests this year.
“We really don’t know dahil hanggang ngayon wala pa naman talagang estimate sila (until now they don’t have estimates yet). Kapag nag-peak sila siguro aabot pa rin ng 7,000 to 10,000 tapos hindi naman kasi sabay-sabay na darating ‘yan (If they reached their peak, probably they will reach 7,000 to 10,000 but they don’t normally arrive together),” the PNP chief said.
“May darating ng umaga, may aalis. May darating ng tanghali tapos aalis. Kung sino talaga ang main group doon, sila ‘yung bandang alas-dos hanggang alas-tres doon nag-rarally. Mangilan-ngilan lang at hindi naman napupuno (Some will arrive in the morning, then they will leave. Some in the afternoon then they will also leave. The main group usually holds their protest around 2 to 3 p.m. They’re only a few and the venue will not be filled),” he added.
However, Albayalde assured that the cops will be able to handle the protesters as he also ordered his men to exercise maximum tolerance to avoid any untoward incident.
“I think with the total number of policemen na made-deploy (that will be deployed), it’s more than enough to maintain the peace and security in the area,” he said.
He also said augmentation from the Special Action Force (SAF), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and force multipliers from the barangays and other stakeholders will help them secure the peaceful conduct of the protest rallies.
Meanwhile, Albayalde appealed to organizers and members of the protest groups to guard their own ranks against possible infiltrators that may initiate a violent confrontation with the lawmen.
“Kung minsan, meron lang talagang gustong manggulo. Minsan mas gusto nila na may gulo kapag may protesta at ‘yun ang hindi natin maintindihan. Pwede naman tayo mag-protesta nang maayos at matiwasay (Sometimes there are [people] who just want to cause trouble. Sometimes they just want to cause trouble during protests and that’s what we don’t understand. We can always hold protests peacefully and orderly),” he said.
Furthermore, Albayalde said there is no more reason for the protest groups to initiate a violent confrontation since almost all demands that they raised during their dialogue were given to them.
On Wednesday, the PNP conducted a dialogue with the organizers of various leftist and cause-oriented groups to hear and negotiate with their demands. Among them are the prohibition to use barbed wires and container vans to block them.
“Nagkaroon naman ng ugnayan dyan between PNP and militanteng grupo and I think over the years, napakita na hindi naman sila nakikigulo so far. I hope itong taon na ito ay maging maayos (A dialogue was held between the PNP and the militant groups and I think over the years, they have shown that they are not causing trouble. I hope this year will also be as orderly),” Albayalde said.
As to whether President Duterte would meet the protesters like what he did last year, Albayalde said they have no information on that although they have prepared for such situation.