Rejects PNP stand on protests on inauguration day
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said the police should allow peaceful rallies regardless of their political beliefs on the June 30 inauguration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Guevarra contradicted the officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., who said only supporters of Marcos Jr. would be allowed.
“The right of peaceful assembly, regardless of one’s political beliefs or affiliation, is guaranteed by the Constitution, subject to reasonable regulations to maintain peace and order, including the requirement to obtain a prior permit,” Guevarra said.
“As long as their statements do not constitute an actionable offense, such as inciting to sedition or oral defamation, rallyists enjoy freedom of expression,” Guevarra said.
On Monday, June 13, Danao said only those who will show support for Marcos will be allowed to come near the inauguration.
“As long as you shout ‘long live’ the new President, then there is no problem,” Danao said. “But if you are pulling down the government, especially those who are leading it, it’s a problem.”
The Commission on Human Rights weighed in on Wednesday, chiding the PNP for its policy.
Executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia raised concern over Danao’s remarks.
“While we note his concern in keeping the inauguration orderly, CHR continues to stress the primacy of upholding human rights as similarly stressed by the President-elect himself during a meeting with the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines on Friday, 10 June 2022,” she said.
She invoked that the freedom of speech, of expression, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble are guaranteed rights under the 1987 Constitution.
“These rights are meant to be enjoyed by all—regardless of whether they express dissent or support, may it be spoken or in any other form,” she added.
She said both pro- and anti-administration demonstrators should know their rights entail obligations, and that the exercise of these rights must never include violence or harm.
She also acknowledged a police clarification that protesters would be allowed to assemble in freedom parks if local governments do not issue them permits.
Guevarra likewise urged government officials involved in the anti-insurgency campaign to stop red-tagging certain people or groups, saying that doing so would put their lives at risk for merely exercising their political rights.
He said instead of red-tagging people or groups, those involved in the anti-insurgency campaign should file appropriate charges in court if they have sufficient evidence against them.
Guevarra said red-tagging is not part of the policy of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), but some individuals who are associated with the task force are vocal about their impression on certain groups and individuals and have resorted to red-tagging.
He said the NTF-ELCAC has a “whole of nation approach” with the purpose to reduce or eliminate insurgency in the country through rehabilitation and not by killing their members or engaging them in combat.
“The DOJ has been very clear with its position that if for instance, if there are persons who committed certain acts that are against the law, then do not just label them. File the necessary action against them, if you have evidence to prove that they are committing offenses or violating our existing law,” Guevarra said during a breakfast forum in Manila.
If there is no evidence to support such accusations, except a suspicion that these are fronts of a communist terrorist group, Guevarra said it would be better for these officials to keep their mouths shut so as not to endanger certain people.
“It is possible that these individuals would become targets, when they were just being vocal about their own political views,” Guevarra said.
He said the Department of Justice, which is part of the NTF-ELCAC, has already expressed its position on the matter but did not know if it was considered.
Earlier, in-coming National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos also expressed her disapproval of red-tagging.
“Perhaps let’s not use labels. We gain nothing if we keep on labeling people,” she said in a recent interview.
The Supreme Court has also issued several measures intended to protect the members of the judiciary and lawyers from threats and red-tagging.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Ambassador Bjorn Jahnsen said Marcos discussed peace talks with him when he called on the incoming President.
“I wouldn’t use this opportunity to talk so much about what the President-elect said, but yes, we discussed this topic,” he said when asked about peace talks with the communist rebels.
Norway served as a third-party facilitator in peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), but the talks eventually fell apart.