MEMBERS of cause-oriented groups may be arrested if they stage protest rallies on Independence Day on Friday, June 12, 2020.
Police Regional Office-Central Visayas (PRO 7) Director Albert Ignatius Ferro issued the warning after receiving word that the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Central Visayas will hold a rally in front of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu campus in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
Ferro told reporters he already tasked police personnel to arrest and disperse protesters.
The police official reminded the public that mass gathering is still prohibited while Cebu is on general community quarantine (GCQ).
“Since we are at the level of GCQ, mass gathering and mass protests are still not allowed. So what they will do tomorrow (Friday) is not allowed, so we will be exercising maximum tolerance if they don’t disperse. We will be forced to arrest them and file a case against them,” Ferro said.
John Ruiz, Bayan Central Visayas coordinator, said they will not be deterred by the police warning and the Department of the Interior and Local Government directive against mass gathering.
Ruiz said it is their constitutional right to assemble peacefully and to air their opposition to government policies.
Ferro urged militant groups to encourage lawmakers to repeal laws that prohibit mass gathering during times of calamity.
Although the police will not prevent cause-oriented groups from voicing their opinions, they must comply with health guidelines, especially since the whole country is in the middle of a health crisis because of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
“We are not preventing their freedom of expression. They could express it peacefully in their homes or (through) virtual (means) maybe or through cyber (means). It’s up to them. But mass gathering is not allowed,” Ferro said.
On Friday, June 5, police arrested seven persons protesting against the recently passed anti-terrorism bill and a bystander. (AYB, MMC)