By Martin Sadongdong
Effective Saturday, July 20, the 28,000-strong National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will be placed on full alert status in preparation for the fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte on Monday, July 22.
Major General Guillermo Eleazar, NCRPO director, said around 14,000 cops will be deployed to ensure the peace and order, and the security of the public during the SONA.
“Full alert means that all of our personnel shall be on standby status and ready to be deployed anywhere wherever they are needed,” Eleazar said.
Of the deployment, 9,162 cops will be fielded near the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City where the President will deliver his speech, and in areas where pro- and anti-Duterte rallyists are expected to hold protests.
The deployment will start at 5 a.m. Monday, Eleazar noted.
The Metro Manila police chief reiterated that no security threat has been monitored so far but he said a contingency plan was prepared if in case President Duterte decides to face the protesters again, just like what he did in 2017.
Meanwhile, the military’s Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) said it will augment the deployment of the police during the SONA.
“We will be deploying an amount of personnel na makakasuporta sa (that can support the) NCRPO at sa (and the) PSG [Presidential Security Group],” said 1st Lieutenant Arianne Bichara, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s JTF-NCR.
She, however, refused to divulge the number of troops that will be deployed for the President’s SONA.
While the police will not be armed, Bichara confirmed that the military personnel will be equipped with short firearms.
“Armed sila. Meron silang mga sidearm kasi hindi natin alam baka mamaya magkagulo so hindi nila maidedefend ‘yong sarili nila (They will be armed. They will have sidearms because we do not know, there might be a need for that and they won’t be able to defend themselves [if they don’t have firearms],” she explained.
However, Bichara said the military personnel eere ordered to observe maximum tolerance and act only as a support force to the police.
Meanwhile, a left-leaning party-list group criticized Police General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, who said that the police may conduct random inspection on the backpacks and personal belongings of protesters.
Albayalde earlier stated that the NCRPO will likely conduct random inspections and deploy intelligence operatives who will join the protesters as undercover cops on Monday.
However, Anakpawis Partylist National Vice President and former representative Ariel Casilao said this will mean a violation of the rights of the protesters.
“For his sanity’s sake, he should personally order his forces to stand down and quit deploying ‘intelligence agents’ or provocateurs that [may] sabotage the protest,” Casilao said.
“The PNP is not known to respect the constitution, Bill of Rights, our right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and self-organization. It is known to violate these rights, thus, Albayalde should quit his act as if he is concerned with the protesters,” he added.
But Albayalde earlier said that the checking of personal belongings of protesters and the deployment of undercover cops were just part of the police’s security measures.
Eleazar had also advised protesters to refrain from bringing backpacks to avoid inconvenience.
About 15,000 protesters are expected to participate in various mass assemblies on Monday.
READ MORE: Metro police under full alert ahead of SONA