By Joseph Cuevas
A group of human rights lawyers reminded authorities there is no law prohibiting rallies under the government’s Covid19 quarantine.
Reacting to a Philippine National Police (PNP) warning that protesters may be arrested if they join planned Philippine Independence Day protests Friday, June 12, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the anti-coronavirus law does not authorize the arrest of citizens exercising their freedom of expression.
In a statement, NUPL said Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and RA) 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases do not prohibit rallies.
“They do not have provisions allowing arrests simply on alleged violation of mass gathering or quarantine rules,” NUPL said.
The PNP is reported to have issued threats to arrest protesters against the controversial anti-terrorism bill due for signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Various groups have announced a protest event dubbed the “Grand Mañanita”, in clear reference to PNP National Capital Region Police office commander Debold Sinas’ controversial party last May.
The police general’s birthday popularly is perceived as a blatant violation of the government’s own prohibitions against mass gatherings during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Department of Interior and Local Government also said public gatherings during the current General Community Quarantine (GCQ) are prohibited while Malacanang yesterday said that mass gatherings are only limited to 10 persons.
NUPL however pointed out that arrests of protesters, such as those that happened against Bulacan and Marikina relief workers, Caloocan jeepney drivers and anti-terrorism bill protesters in Cebu City, are not prohibited by the Bayanihan law as well as various Inter-Agency Task Force rules and executive orders on the ongoing quarantines.
The group added that the Bayanihan law and the orders are not criminal laws that allow the arrests of protesters.
The NUPL also pointed out relevant laws and statutes such as Article III of the 1987 Constitution, the 1985 Public Assembly Act or B.P. 880, Article 21 of 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights safeguarding the rights of citizens to air grievances.
Various groups all over the country are planning on coordinated rallies as opposition to the prospective anti-terrorism law snowballs. #