MANILA – Malacañang is urging groups and individuals who plan to stage Independence Day protests on June 12 to take their assemblies online to avoid mass gatherings amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark in a virtual presser on Monday following the arrest of eight protestors in the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu who are opposed to the anti-terror bill.
Roque explained that if online protests were held on Labor Day (May 1), the same effort can be done on Independence Day.
“Sa mga lugar na talagang mas malaking banta ang Covid-19, eh huwag ninyo naman pong i-violate iyong ating quarantine rules gaya ng social distancing. Puwede po magprotesta online, hindi po natin sinusupil iyan (In areas where there is a high Covid-19 threat, don’t violate quarantine rules such as social distancing. You can hold protests online, that is not being curtailed),” he said.
He pointed out that Cebu City is the city with the highest number of Covid-19 cases at nearly 3,000.
Cebu City’s health department announced that 138 new Covid-19 patients were recorded on Sunday, bringing the total number of documented cases to 2,756.
“Mataas pa po ang kaso sa Cebu, in fact, kayo pa po ang pinakamataas na kaso diyan sa Cebu sa buong Pilipinas (The cases in Cebu are high, in fact, you have the highest number of cases in the country),” he said.
Roque said that although Cebu is currently under less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) until June 15, the original proposal was to classify it under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
On Friday (June 5), three students, four members of progressive groups in Cebu, and a bystander were arrested by police while holding a rally inside the campus.
Their lawyer, Rey Fernandez, questioned the arrests, citing a 1982 agreement between the state university and the military and police barring their entry into UP campuses without the latter’s consent.
UP Cebu Chancellor Liza Corro also cited the 1982 agreement, expressing disappointment that none of the police officers tried to coordinate with UP Cebu with regards to handling the situation.
Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro, Central Visayas police director, said they were not against freedom of expression if we were only in a normal situation, but emphasized the importance of physical distancing and other quarantine protocols amid Covid-19 threat. (PNA)