“That is what is maximum tolerance.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — From the moment the Sona rallyists started marching in Commonwealth Avenue early Monday morning July 25, their progress was being recounted with bated breath by mainstream radio and TV reporters.
“Unbelievable! Before, they were being driven away, now they’re even being guided (by the police),” a radio-TV reporter gushed. It was before 8 a.m., the Sona rallyists from Southern Tagalog had just passed by Ever Gotesco Mall, then St. Peter’s Church, along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
In past SONAs, these parts of the highway were a virtual garrison. Arrayed before rallyists were fire trucks, dump trucks, rolls of concertina wire, and rows of armed policemen and troops ready to hit the protesters with truncheons and shields, and blasts of colored water, if they tried to march beyond Ever Gotesco.
“For the first time in so many Sona’s we are entering Batasan,” a rallyist happily told the media as they rounded the corner to IBP road. More policemen were stationed there and they were in full battle gear. But after a brief negotiation, they, too, did not block the rallyists, just their vehicles.
“That is what is maximum tolerance,” another radio-TV reporter and an anchor agreed when they reported the development.
At Batasan, a policeman treated a few rallyists to ice candies being peddled by an itinerant vendor.
Some residents along Batasan Road offered cool water to thirsty rallyists.
Another first for a SONA rally, sometime before the rest of the thousands of rallyists arrived in Batasan to join their fellows from Southern Tagalog, police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa himself came to greet the gathered rallyists.
Bato took the stage, followed by his security and some reporters. They crowded at the stage and Bato told the gathered activists, “Let’s help each other out…. We want the same things…. All of us are Filipinos.”
Earlier, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), was at the same place in Batasan overseeing the setting up of the mobile stage for the rally program. He told the media their SONA gathering was “a historic march…a mammoth gathering in support of President Duterte’s progressive pronouncements.