Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested 34 protesters during President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) but said the rallies in Quezon City, Marikina, and Caloocan were generally peaceful.
“The situation was generally peaceful and orderly with no untoward incident reported,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a message sent through Viber.
PNP deployed around 6,000 police officers to ensure the smooth and secured run of Duterte’s SONA.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa ordered police units to issue fines on those who be could be caught violating local government ordinances on quarantine to avoid jail time.
“Right away, they can pay their fine and be released,” he said.
According to Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director, around 1,817 members of advocacy groups joined in a two-hour rally inside the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.
However, Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, gave a much higher number of participants at around 10,000.
Montejo praised the participants for following what the agreed guidelines during a dialogue over last weekend.
Authorities said some of the suspects allegedly joined of illegal assembly while most were apprehended for riding an overloaded vehicle and violating COVID-19 health protocols.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said included in the arrested were alleged five members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) in Quezon City.
They were arrested for allegedly violating rules against the use of traditional jeepneys amid general community quarantine, Sinas said. Police immediately brought them to Camp Caringal, where they would be charged.
“We will charge them with illegal assembly because the local government of Quezon City has not issued any rally permit,” Sinas said.
PISTON secretary-general Steve Ranjo appealed to the police to withdraw the charges.
“If traditional jeeps are not allowed, why apprehend only them? We do not see any ground to arrest them,” said Ranjo.
However, Sinas said they had to slap them with criminal charges, “so they know we mean business.” “When we just send them home and do not file charges against them, they will just come back and join rallies,” he added.