Passage of New Public Assembly Act endorsed

Published August 20, 2020, 3:54 PM

by Ben Rosario

 The House Committee on People’s Participation endorsed  the passage of the New Public Assembly Act that seeks to further guarantee and protect the constitutioanl rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and exercise their freedom of expression.

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Chaired by Rep. Rida Robes of San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, the House panel approved House Bill 6297 or the New Public Assembly Act principally authored by Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Robes said the House panel approved the bill after taking into consideration the concerns of various stakeholders that included the Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police,  Commission on Human Rights, and the various local government organizations in the country.

She also aired her concern over certain provisions of the bill regarding the participation of minors in public assemblies and the mere imposiiton of “censure” as penalty for leaders and organizers of assemblies who ignore the requirement of notice in conducting rallies, demonstrations, and other mass gatherings.

Zarate said censure will remain the penalty but fine and or community service rather than arresto menor will be imposed for repeat offenders.

The Commission on Human Rights was tasked to draft a provision that will regulate the participation of minors “without violating their constitutional rights,” said Zarate.

“This is a positive development towards ensuring the Filipino people’s right to assemble and freedom of expression. The bill repeals the draconian and martial law era BP 880 and we hope that this bill at its present form can be fast tracked,” said Zarate.

He added: “The main provision here is Section 5 which now only requires a notice to be filed with the local government unit (LGU) concerned when a public assembly is to take place in a public place.”

However, notices of public assembly will no longer be needed for mass gatherings in freedom parks, private properties, or in the campus of a government-owned and -operated educational institution.

Robes said additional information about the leaders or organizers such as their telephone numbers and addresses are vital notice requirements.

Under the bill, rally and assembly organizers are required to inform the participants of their responsibility under applicable laws and ordinances, to police their ranks, confer with local officials and law enforcers, and to ensure that assemblies do not go beyond the time stated in the notice.

Dispersal of public assemblies conducted without notice will be initiated by the police if the gathering turns violent and creates actual danger to public order, public safety, public morals, or public health.

“We should look at public assembly as a mechanism for people to express their opinion to check especially employees and officials of government.  In public assemblies, they can petition government and redress of grievances which is in the Constitution,” said Zarate.

 
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