“We will hold rallies to demand jobs, wages, land reform, human rights and national sovereignty. The rallies directed against the SONA aim to highlight various people’s issues that the incumbent administration must address.” – Bayan
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the umbrella group of progressive organizations, has formally applied for a rally permit before the office of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista in preparation for President Benigno Aquino III’s second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25. Bayan was assisted by the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), an organization of human-rights lawyers .
Bayan annually leads thousands of protesters during the SOna, which the nation’s president traditionally delivers in July during the opening of the congress.
Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes Jr. said that this year will be no different and that thousands will again take to the streets to proclaim the “true state of the nation” as felt and experienced by ordinary working Filipinos.
“We will hold rallies to demand jobs, wages, land reform, human rights and national sovereignty. The rallies directed against the Sona aim to highlight various people’s issues that the incumbent administration must address. It is also an occasion for the people to give their own assessment of the Aquino government,” he said.
Reyes said none of the promises President Aquino delivered during the May 2010 presidential campaign have come to fruition.
“The economic crisis worsens every month. We’re confronted with rising prices, low wages, landlessness and feudal exploitation, diminishing social services and continuing human rights violations under a climate of impunity,” Reyes said, adding: “These are the reasons why we will protest on July 25.”
Reyes said Bayan expects the Quezon City government to adhere to the law and allow Bayan to hold peaceful protests in front of Batasang Pambansa.
In its permit application, Bayan informed the city government that it will stage a protest action along Batasan road, in front of the Batasang Pambansa. The group said that the protest action will be peaceful and organized and will not pose a threat to public safety. It also said that the Batasan road is wide enough to accommodate protesters who will be coming from different communities and provinces. It would also de-congest the entire Commonwealth Avenue which is always subjected to rerouting during the Sona.
“We call on Mayor Bautista to uphold freedom of expression and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. The people deserve to be heard and it is well within their rights to bring their protest as near as possible to the Batasang Pambansa,” Reyes said.
“The rally does not pose a danger to the public. The massive police deployment aimed at protesters is overkill. If this is a government that is not afraid of the people voicing out their concerns, then it should not turn Commonwealth Avenue and the Batasang Pambansa into a garrison.”
Illegal to modify permit terms
In the meantime, Reyes warned authorities against arbitrarily denying or modifying the permit application.
“We hope that the city government does not arbitrarily modify the terms of the rally permit, particularly the venue of the rally,” he said. He explained that the Supreme Court has recently laid down a decision stating that a City Mayor cannot simply transfer the venue of the rally absent proof that the rally poses clear and present danger to the public.
Bayan cited the recent SC decision (G.R. No. 175241) penned by now retired justice Conchita Carpio-Morales where the High Court favored petitioners Integrated Bar of the Philippines against then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. The IBP was then represented by its president Jose Anselmo Cadiz, who is now the Solicitor General of the Aquino government.
In its decision, the SC found Atienza guilty of grave abuse of discretion when he modified the rally permit from Mendiola to Plaza Miranda, without informing the IBP and without stating the basis for such a modification.
“The SC decision clearly states that the local government cannot arbitrarily modify or deny a rally permit without informing the applicant, conducting a hearing and stating the local government’s basis for modification or denial. The law is clear that there should be proof that the rally poses clear and present danger,” Reyes said.
Batas Pambansa 880 sets forth the actions to be taken on a rally permit application.
(c) If the mayor is of the view that there is imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil warranting the denial or modification of the permit, he shall immediately inform the applicant who must be heard on the matter.
(d) The action on the permit shall be in writing and served on the application [sic] within twenty-four hours.
The militant group also cited an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court where Bayan challenged the Arroyo government on its “Calibrated Pre-emptive Response” (CPR) policy. In the SC decision, it said that “the sole justification for a limitation on the exercise of this right, so fundamental to the maintenance of democratic institutions, is the danger, of a character both grave and imminent, of a serious evil to public safety, public morals, public health, or any other legitimate public interest.”
“The burden of proof in denying or modifying a permit rests with the city government. And here they cannot use mere intelligence reports to bolster their claim that a rally may pose clear and present danger. There must be proof,” Reyes said.
Bayan is also expecting the Quezon City government to act on their permit application at the soonest possible time, otherwise the application is deemed granted.
“Based on BP 880, the approving authority must act on the application within two days from filing, or the permit will be deemed granted,” Reyes said.
The activist leader pointed out that the city government — not the Philippine National Police, the Presidential Security Group nor even Malacañang– is the approving authority for rally permits.
“Given this, we object to the practice of the PNP as the entity that sets the terms and conditions for the approval of rally permits,” he said.
PNP to deploy thousands for the Sona
For its part, the PNP has already made an announcement that it was prepared to “thwart all possible threats” to Aquino’s second Sona.
The PNP has established Task Force “Kapayapaan” that will be in charge of security efforts protecting the president and securing the periphery of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Batasan Hills, Quezon City. National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Superintendent Alan Purisima was assigned as task force commander.
Various units of the police force will also support the NCRPO such as the national support units, and the national headquarters of the PNP, PNP directorial staff, and police offices in regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, and 5.
Some 1,500 Civil Disturbance Management officers are also slated for deployment, aside from the NCRPO, AFP and Presidential Security Group. The PNP said the task force will establish checkpoints in all major thoroughfares in the metropolis. The police will also conduct mobile and foot patrols.
A terrible year for the urban poor
As the countdown to the Sona begins, people’s organizations have already begun issuing their verdict on Aquino’s first year in office.
Groups of urban poor under Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon (AKD), a national alliance of urban poor settlers, tagged Aquino as a “demolition king.”
The AKD said that Aquino’s sole agenda for the urban poor is demolition and eviction from their communities. According to reports, some 360,000 families are currently facing threats of demolition to pave way for priority national projects under the Private-Public Partnership, as the framework of Aquino’s economic policy.
Estrelieta Bagasbas, AKD national spokesperson described Aquino’s first year in office as ‘the worst year for urban poor settlers.”
Bagasbas, who is also community leader from North Triangle, said not less than 7,000 urban poor families were evicted from their communities in the first year of the Aquino administration in Metro Manila alone due to different priority development projects under the PPP program.
Among the urban poor communities that suffered the worst during Aquino’s first year of office are Sitio San Roque in North Triangle and New Manila in Quezon City, Laperal in Makati City and Corazon De Jesus in San Juan City.
The AKD also documented a number of similar cases such as the demolition attempt in Sitio Soliman in Davao City. These attempts either succeeded violently with countless casualties on the side of the police and the demolition crew, or were stopped by the urban poor’s resistance.
“We question the place of urban poor in Aquino’s development program. When all the development projects require the eviction of thousands of poor families from the urban communities, what will remain in the cities are the businessmen and those who can afford to live in condominiums and subdivision areas,” Bagasbas said.
In a statement in May, Aquino announced his administration’s plan to relocate the half-a-million informal settler families in Metro Manila to nearby provinces. Among the Aquino government’s priority bills is the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) which proponents said will solve the long-standing housing problem in urban centers nationwide.
Bagasbas, however, said that the creation of DHUD will lead to the abolition of the National Housing Authority and the gradual abandonment of government’s responsibility in providing decent housing to its people.
“It’s important that the thousands of urban poor all over the country unite and demand that the Aquino government stop its attacks against their homes and their welfare.The urban poor have countless reasons why they should join Sona ng Bayan on July 25,” she said.