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On the arbitrary and illegal curtailment of the people’s right to peaceably assemble

Posted on 21 July 2011 by glades

The current government’s policy in dealing with peaceful protests appears no different from the previous government. It has placed restrictions on the right to peaceably assemble, in clear violation of the law and our constitutional rights. Like his predecessor Arroyo, Aquino will again surround himself with thousands of police and military personnel on his second State of the Nation Address. This is the image of the government that professes to listen to the grievance of the people.

Last Friday, July 15, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), assisted by its counsel from the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed before the office of the mayor of Quezon City an application for a rally permit, in accordance with the requirements set forth by Batas Pambansa 880. Bayan sought to hold a protest at Batasan Road, particularly the wide road before the Batasang Pambansa (in front of a school and park). This will allow protesters to be at a reasonable distance from the institution that they are airing their demands to, as well as allow the decongestion of traffic along Commonwealth Ave.

While we have always found BP 880 to be restrictive, we chose to comply with the requirements set forth by this Marcos-era law if only to assure the public and the authorities that the mass action on July 25 will be peaceful and organized. In our application, we cited pertinent provisions of BP 880 and attached a 2010 Supreme Court ruling on the issuance of rally permits.

Under the law, the approving authorities have two days from the filing with which to act on the application, otherwise the application is deemed granted. Upon checking with the Office of the Mayor and the Department of Public Order and Safety, no action, whether denying or granting the application, was made until July 19, Tuesday. The reason given to us was that the application was forwarded to and is still pending with the PNP.

Meanwhile, the QC Police has been issuing public statements that they will only allow protesters to hold their program at EVER Gotesco.

It is our belief that the failure of the approving authorities to act on the permit within the required period means that our application has been granted. Likewise, even if the approving authority issues a permit belatedly, it cannot modify the venue applied for by the rally organizer without informing the applicant and without presenting proof that the rally poses a clear and present danger to public safety. No less than the Supreme Court has ruled on this matter when former Mayor Lito Atienza arbitrarily modified the application for a rally permit from Mendiola to Plaza Miranda.

The people have just cause to protest on Monday. There is rising unemployment, poverty, hunger, continuing human rights violations, and an overall worsening of the crisis. There remains no accountability of Arroyo and her cohorts who egaged in corruption, election fraud and gross human rights violations. These are legitimate issues that the government has failed to address in its first year in office.

By placing arbitrary and illegal restrictions on the people’s right to assemble peacefully, the Aquino government is doing a good in job in showing how similar it is to the previous Arroyo regime. ###

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