Albayalde inspects cops deployment for SONA

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde on Monday inspected the deployment of police officers along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City hours before the fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Albayalde said that he placed the entire PNP on full alert status since Saturday to ensure the availability of security forces to perform law enforcement and public safety duties as the President of the Republic of the Philippines delivers the State of the Nation Address at the opening of the 18th Congress.

“To ensure that everyone will enjoy the right to freely and peacefully appreciate the significance of this occasion, the entire PNP is on full alert to address any situation that will require police action,” Albayalde said who inspected the police deployment together with National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar and Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Brig. Gen. Joselito Esquivel Jr.,

Albayalde said there is no reason to deploy additional policemen for the SONA.

“A sizable contingent of PNP personnel will be deployed in different locations as the need arises to undertake Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) operations in the venues of mass actions and convergence points,” he noted.

“I am confident that with all our preparations, including the series of dialogues and coordination with leaders and organizers of participating groups in the projected mass actions today, the 2019 SONA will be peaceful, orderly and uneventful,” said Albayalde.

He said that guided by President Duterte’s specific instructions to allow free expression and public assembly, and prevent violent confrontation between security forces and rallyists, the general guidance to CDM units is to observe maximum tolerance at all times, even when provoked.

“The orders of the President are very clear: 1) CDM personnel will not carry firearms, but will be equipped only with the standard protective gear and non-lethal instruments, 2) We will give appropriate space for protesters to hold the public assemblies and even pull back within reasonable limits, and 3) we will recover our ground decisively when we find ourselves pushed against the wall,” he explained.

Albayalde said that the PNP respects the right of the participants to free expression and assembly.

“We will uphold as well the right of non-participants to unhampered access to our streets and thoroughfares. We will keep our lines of communication open with leaders and organizers of these public assemblies and mass action for effective coordination of their movement,” he said.

“Let me remind again that the freedom of expression is not absolute, it is limited within the bounds of law. Everyone is expected to exercise discretion on what would constitute a violation of law. And we presume anyone exercising this right knows the responsibilities,” he stressed.

Albayalde said they have not monitored any serious threat of attacks.

“Sa ngayon, wala pa rin naman (and) as of this time wala pa tayong nakukuhang (For now, there is none and as of this time, we have not monitored any) threat. But then again, we appeal to the public to remain vigilant,” Albayalde told reporters.

Albayalde said the annual SONA is an important national event that every Filipino must look forward to with enthusiasm and optimism to witness the President of the Republic of the Philippines deliver his annual review of achievements, statement of the present situation and announcement of future prospects before the joint houses of Congress.

For his part, Eleazar cops will be deployed particularly in areas where anti and pro-Duterte groups are expected to hold rallies, particularly along Commonwealth Avenue and IBP Road near the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Eleazar said protest rallies will be allowed “for as long as these are held peacefully”. He added at least 15,000 protesters expected to hold rallies.

He assured that they have a contingency plan, in coordination with the Presidential Security Group (PSG), in case the President decides to face the protesters after delivering his 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,” he said.

Eleazar assured that maximum tolerance will be exercised while asking the militant groups to police their ranks. He said no violent dispersal was recorded since Duterte’s first SONA in 2016.

“We will adhere to a maximum tolerance policy as we manage the cause-oriented groups with democratic rights as our governing spirit,” Eleazar said.

“Nevertheless, we will be vigilant for all possible terroristic or criminal elements who may want to take advantage of our disposition of maximum tolerance,” he added.

He said 9,162 cops and force multipliers would be sent to secure the vicinity of the Batasang Pambansa.

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

Eleazar also assured that security will be provided in Mendiola, the US Embassy, and the Edsa Shrine, where rallies are expected during SONA.

“Together, let us work as one, as a team. After all, the success of the SONA will also mean the success of the nation,” he said.

The SONA, which is delivered by the President of the Philippines every year, is a constitutional obligation, required by Article VII, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution.

It is a venue that allows the President to report on the state of the country, as well as the government’s agenda for the coming year, and to propose certain legislative measures to be acted upon by Congress. (PNA)

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