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SONA cops brace for ‘surprises’

The National Capital Region Police Office on Wednesday gave assurances it had a contingency plan in case President Rodrigo Duterte steps out of the House of Representatives after delivering his fourth State of the Nation Address and face the protesters on Monday.

READ: 15K cops, force multipliers eyed to guard SONA

NCRPO Director, Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said they had already coordinated with the Presidential Security Group regarding the matter.

“Just like what happened two years ago, the President came out and we were really surprised because that was unexpected. But after that, we have prepared contingency measures in case he does it again,” Eleazar told reporters after meeting with stakeholders and militant groups to agree on conditions regarding protests during the SONA on July 22 in Quezon City.

In related developments:

• Mobile phone signal will be jammed at the House of Representatives and nearby areas during the 4th State of the Nation Address of President Duterte on July 22.

The move, according to Eleazar, will be made in coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission, as part of a contingency plan and security preparation before, during and after the SONA. 

“Just like what happened two years ago, the President came out and we were really surprised because that was unexpected. But after that, we have prepared contingency measures in case he does it again,” said Eleazar.

• The Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday warned foreigners in the country from joining political rallies or face outright deportation.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the warning as the SONA was only less than a week away, reiterating that foreigners were prohibited by law to engage in any political activity in the country.

The BI chief said several foreigners who engaged in political activities last year were deported and banned from returning to the country.

“We are sending this warning to avoid a repeat of the cases wherein we had to deport foreign protesters,” the BI chief said.

Eleazar noted that part of security protocol was to jam cellular signals during the SONA.

He also appealed to the militant groups and pro-government protesters to avoid wearing jackets and bringing backpacks during demonstrations on July 22. 

“We are asking them not to carry bags and wear jackets. But this is just a discouragement, we cannot prohibit them from doing it,” Eleazar said.

Eleazar said they expected at least 15,000 protesters based on the SONA last year.

The NCRPO chief said rallies would be allowed up to St. Peter Parish on Commonwealth Avenue for militant groups while the pro-administration groups would be at IBP road “for as long as these are held peacefully”.

“(For pro-administration) We reserve the IBP road which they can occupy. We already had a prior arrangement with them,” he said.

“As usual, our police will exercise maximum tolerance but at the same time we asked the militant groups to do their share and police their ranks to ensure a peaceful and orderly SONA day,” he added.

Eleazar said they had not monitored any serious threat of attacks.

“We have not monitored any threat but we are continuously coordinating with agencies involved,” said Eleazar.

Eleazar said Muslim community leaders had been consistently helping them in intelligence-gathering and information-sharing relating to potential security threats in the metropolis.

“In several times, they proved their sincerity in our effort to maintain peace and order in Metro Manila. They have been helping us and we have good relationship with them,” he said.

He said some of the suspected terrorists who were arrested in Metro Manila were based on the information-sharing with Muslim communities especially in Quezon City, Manila, and Taguig City.

“If we have information, we ask for their help and if they have information, they would immediately relay all of them to us. It is indeed a good collaboration to maintain peace and order here in Metro Manila,” said Eleazar.

At least 9,000 cops and force multipliers will be deployed near the vicinity of the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City to provide security during the SONA.

Aside from the vicinity of the House of Representatives, Eleazar said police officers will secure places of convergence like malls and churches as well as vital installations like terminals, airports, and seaports.

He also assured security will be provided in Mendiola, the United States Embassy and EDSA Shrine, where rallies are expected to be held during the SONA.

“The PNP remains vigilant to prevent the occurrence of crimes and respond to any call for assistance,” Eleazar added. 

The National Capital Region Police Office and the Quezon City police command allowed militant groups and other protesters to conduct demonstrations but the authorities appealed to them not to bring bags and backpacks, and not to wear jackets. 

“We are asking them not to carry bags and wear jackets. But this is just a discouragement, we cannot prohibit them from doing it,” said Eleazar. 

Citing the previous SONA, the NCRPO is expecting at least 15,000 pro and anti-rallyists to hold demonstrations along Commonwealth Avenue and IBP Road.

“As usual, our police will exercise maximum tolerance but at the same time we asked the militant groups to do their share and police their ranks to ensure a peaceful and orderly SONA day,” the NCRPO chief said, adding that his office has not monitored any serious threat of attacks for the event.

“But we are continuously coordinating with agencies involved,” he said.

Muslim community leaders, meanwhile, are coordinating and helping the NCRPO in its intelligence-gathering and information-sharing relating to potential security threats in the metropolis.

“In several times, they proved their sincerity in our effort to maintain peace and order in Metro Manila. They have been helping us and we have a good relationship with them,” said Eleazar.

Morente said  being a visitor of the country did not give foreigners the political rights and privileges of a Filipino, saying “joining political demonstrations is an utter display of disrespect to the country’s authorities, and is equivalent to meddling in our internal affairs as a sovereign nation.”

In 2013, Dutch citizen Thomas van Beersum was deported after being photographed joining a protest and taunting a crying policeman, while Canadian student Kim Chatillon-Miller was also deported for joining an anti-SONA demonstration.

In 2018, Australian nun Patricia Fox was denied renewal of her visa for violating the conditions of her stay and participating in partisan political activities, while in the same year, Zimbabwean Tawanda Chandiwana, American Adam Thomas Shaw, and Malawian Miracle Osman were ordered to leave for involvement in leftist activities.

“Follow our laws. It is very simple and clear. Foreign visitors are not allowed to partake in political demonstrations. We allowed your stay in the Philippines, please respect our government and our laws,” he said.

Morente clarified that while it was within the BI’s policy to welcome foreign visitors, the BI is also duty-bound to implement the law by deporting foreign protesters.

“Foreigners have no business joining such activities as it is a clear violation of their conditions of stay,” he added. With PNA

READ: Pre-SONA: Cops summon pros, cons

Topics: National Capital Region Police Office , Rodrigo Duterte , House of Representatives , State of the Nation Address , Guillermo Eleazar
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