7,000 cops to secure SoNA

PREPARATION is key in ensuring a peaceful 3rd State of the Nation Address (SoNA), according to police officials.      afp

By Nelson S. Badilla

The first two SoNA had been relatively peaceful, with Duterte even meeting up with protesters last year.  

About 7,000 policemen will be deployed in and around the Batasan Complex in Quezon City to ensure a safe, peaceful and orderly conduct of President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on July 23.

Chief Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said on radio the policemen will come from the five police districts of NCRPO, aside from the NCRPO command itself.

The police force is expected to be augmented by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and contingents from various government agencies.

President Duterte has ordered the police and military to observe maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters during the SoNA, saying he doesn’t want them to carry firearms.

Eleazar has been designated commander of the police task force securing the SoNA.

The police official said they need make sure no untoward incident at the Batasan, where the House of Representatives is located.

Eleazar they would have to separate the anti-Duterte groups with those supporting the government so they would not be able to confront one another.

The first two SoNA of Duterte had been generally peaceful and Eleazar said they want to keep that record going by preparing long and hard for the third SoNA.

Chief Supt. Joselito Esquivel Jr. echoed Eleazar’s statement as he assured that the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) which he heads is ready to take on the challenge.

Esquivel will be the ground commander during the third SoNA.

In keeping with Duterte’s directive, Eleazar said the police will not prevent rallies, but that protesters should know the boundaries of their right to freedom of assembly and free speech.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has been tasked to ensure the smooth flow of traffic along Commonwealth Avenue leading to the Batasan Complex.

Duterte has said he wants his third SoNA to be festive but that he would not want protests.

“Seek redress, shout on the streets. I will tell the military and police to exercise maximum tolerance (and) to just back off when pushed to the wall,” the President said.

President Duterte said those who would be tasked to deal with SoNA protesters must not allow themselves to be provoked saying policemen must expect themselves to be “spat on.”

He said though that “I am not asking you to die” but to “just retreat and retreat” until they are pushed as far back as the Pasig River.

The first two SoNA had been relatively peaceful, with Duterte even meeting up with protesters last year.

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