By Aaron Recuenco
Police forces in Metro Manila were placed under the highest security alert status ahead of the 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte on Monday at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.
Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said that the full alert status took effect at 8 a.m. Saturday as part of the security preparations for the SONA.
But unlike before that policemen were deployed a few days before the SONA, Eleazar said that full deployment would be early morning of Monday in order to make sure that before sunrise, the security measures are in place.
“Early full deployment is unnecessary, it will just result in our personnel getting tired to the point that they would feel exhausted during the SONA Day,” said Eleazar.
“We need them to be comfortable so that during the SONA Day, they are relaxed and in good state of mind,” he added.
But security arrangements were already made this early in places where protesters are expected to converge before the expected protest march along Commonwealth Avenue.
At least 14,000 policemen will be tapped to secure the SONA, the bulk will be near the Batasan Pambansa area, particularly at IBP Road and along Commonwealth Avenue.
On the other hand, more than 15,000 anti-Duterte protesters are expected to join the SONA rally. A major portion of Commonwealth Avenue near the Batasan Pambansa will be given to them as protest site.
On the other hand, a portion of IBP Road will be designated for supporters of Duterte.
Eleazar earlier met with leaders and organizers of various groups to come up with an agreement to ensure a peaceful conduct of protest actions.
As a gesture of sincerity, Eleazar said that policemen on the frontline will not be carrying truncheons and shields as these instruments could trigger clashes.
In return, he said he is expecting rally organizers to police their own ranks and follow what were agreed upon during the series of meetings.
While the NCRPO will be busy for SONA, Eleazar said that he had instructed all police commanders to go on with their daily law enforcement functions that include securing their respective areas of jurisdiction that include malls, air and seaports, bus terminals, and other places where people usually converge.
He said security will be provided in Mendiola, the United States Embassy and at the EDSA Shrine.
“The PNP remains vigilant to prevent the occurrence of crimes and respond to any call for assistance,” said Eleazar.