WITH all gun permits issued to civilians suspended until Wednesday as part of their efforts to make Metro Manila ‘weapons-free’ this week, the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership has expressed confidence it will be able to effectively keep peace and order in the streets as President Rodrigo Duterte makes his last State-of-the-Nation-Address Monday afternoon.
PNP chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said they are 100 percent prepared to secure the President’s SONA with officers on the ground under orders to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters who would insist on holding rallies and refuse to comply with health protocols amid the pandemic.
The top cop has ordered a weeklong Metro Manila-wide gun ban as part of their security measures for the event and ordered the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) headed by Major Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr. to strictly enforce the rule for seven days in the metropolis to better control the presence of guns in the streets during the President’s last address to the nation.
From 8 a.m. of July 21 until 8 a.m. of July 28, all Permit-to-Carry-Firearms-Outside-of-Residence (PTCFORs) issued in Metro Manila have been temporarily suspended to ensure that the SONA is free from firearms-related incidents and to better ensure the safety of the public.
The memorandum issued last July 16 allows only members of the PNP and the Armed Forces and members of other law enforcement agencies who are performing official duties and in agency-prescribed uniform to carry firearms.
“We are prepared for all scenarios. In keeping with the Intensified Cleanliness Policy, we have conducted dialogues to establish coordination, cooperation, and understanding between the police, stakeholders, community leaders, and cause-oriented groups on self-policing, no-permit no-rally policy, traffic rerouting, and other public services so that we can attain our goal of a peaceful SONA,” Gen. Eleazar said.
A total of 15,000 police personnel will be deployed to secure peace and order during the SONA.
“I have directed all police district directors to strengthen anti-criminality measures and police visibility operations all over Metro Manila. As usual, our police will exercise maximum tolerance but at the same time we are appealing to the militant groups to do their share and police their ranks to ensure a peaceful and orderly SONA. Of course, our police are always alert and would not hesitate to use legal force if the protesters become unruly,” Gen. Eleazar added.
Police bodycams to be used
Maj. Gen. Danao said his men will be using their bodycams in guarding the movement of expected anti-government protesters today.
“We will also be deploying our personnel who are equipped with Body-Worn Cameras para po mamonitor natin yung lahat ng movement lalong lalo na yung sa security aspect. Mas makikita natin yung movement ng mga tao at mas matututukan natin yung placement ng kanilang deployment. This is to ensure na hindi tayo malulusutan ng any suspicious person na maaaring gumawa ng kalokohan,” the NCRPO chief said.
The Metro Manila police chief said that the Quezon City Police District headed by Brigadier Gen. Antonio C. Yarra and other support units from the four other NCRPO districts and the NCRPO headquarters will be deployed to secure peace and order during the event and especially guard against people who will try to resort to violence and other unlawful actions during the President’s address.
“This is to guarantee that before, during and the aftermath of the SONA will go smoothly as planned since it will be more challenging than it was over the past few years due to the threat of the current health crisis.” Danao said.
According to the official, they have ready contingency plans if ever there will be trouble from protesters during the event.
The NCRPO has conducted dialogues with different communities, civil society leaders and other stakeholders as part of their move to ensure a peaceful and orderly SONA.
“Mayroon din naman tayong tinatawag na freedom of expression pero siyempre let us always take consideration of the IATF rules because it can be a cause of wide spreaders lalo na ngayon with DELTA variant, na very dangerous. Kaya kami po ay nakikiusap sa lahat na kung wala naman kayong ibang gagawin, siguro po magstay at home na lang. Lalong lalo na ngayon, baka magkahawaan pa tayo lalo niyan,” Maj. Gen. Danao said.
Gen. Eleazar also appealed anew to the public to fully cooperate with the government and strictly observe health protocols amid the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
“Lahat tayo ay naging saksi sa mga naganap sa India at hindi natin gugustuhin na mangyari ang pananalasa ng COVID-19 sa ating bansa, lalo pa’t may mga kumpirmadong kaso at may mga namatay na nga sa ating bansa dahil sa Delta variant. Subalit nananatiling nasa kamay ng bawat Pilipino ang kaligtasan ng ating bansa, ang kailangan lamang ay manatiling sumunod sa mga alituntuning ipinapatupad ng ating pamahalaan para sa proteksyon ng bawat isa,” the PNP chief added.
The COVID-19 Delta variant, first detected in India, is said to be more transmissible.
Gen. Eleazar said some 11,500 policemen from the QCPD and the other four Metro Manila police districts will be deployed during the event.
The rest will come from the Metro Manila Development Authority, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection and other PNP ‘force multipliers’ including barangay security personnel and volunteers.
The top cop said that as arranged, the NCRPO will be using Body-Worn Cameras and alternative cellphone devices during the event as part of their effort to record the situation on the ground.
“Ang paalala ko lang po sa publiko ay iba ang situation ngayon. Me COVID-19 na hindi puwedeng biru-biruin, lalo na at me Delta Variant na. Iba po ang sitwasyon ngayon. While it is true na nadiyan palagi ang ating Karapatan, meron po tayong mga bagay na dapat alalahanin dahil po sa pandemic,” he said.
The PNP chief called on protest groups not to violate the law and see to it that they will only be conducting their rallies in designated freedom parks and provided they have rally permits from the different LGUs.
“Our policemen will be deployed to see to it that health protocols will be observed. They are under orders to exercise maximum tolerance however. Ang tried-and-tested formula lang po natin dito is please comply with health protocols. Sumunod po tayo dahil ayaw nating makahawa,” he said.
He also urged groups planning to stage mass actions to conduct their activities virtually or online.
“Sa ilan nating mga kababayan na patuloy pa ring nagpa-plano para sa isang rally, nagpapa-alala ang inyong PNP na lubha pang delikado ang ganitong klaseng pagtitipon lalo na at may kumpirmasyon na ng local transmission ng Delta variant ng COVID-19. Mas ligtas na makinig at manood na lang tayo ng SONA sa ating mga tahanan,” the PNP chief said.
Gen. Eleazar said they have not monitored any threat to the SONA but assured that all personnel are ready to respond to any eventuality.