(UPDATED 10:06 p.m.) Some Filipinos are set to commemorate the nation’s 122nd birthday, marking the country’s independence, by employing creative demonstration strategies in an attempt to abide by the government’s guidelines when it comes to holding protests.
Protesters have called its assembly against the controversial anti-terrorism bill a “mañanita.” This is a reference to the birthday “salubong” of Metro Manila Police Major General Debold Sinas, who earned criticisms last month for breaking the quarantine rules his police force is enforcing.
Despite failing to abide by the ban on mass gatherings, Sinas and the police officers who attended the mañanita were only investigated and did not receive any sanction.
In view of this, opposition Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan earlier advised the protesters to call their demonstrations a “mañanita” and bring flowers to supposedly avoid arrests.
Photos of Sinas’ mañanita last month showed that some of his visitors brought him roses and cakes and were not wearing face masks.
Various groups would stage the demonstrations on Friday, to voice their opposition against the passage of the highly controversial Anti-Terrorist Act of 2020 with provisions seen to potentially curtail constitutionally-protected civil liberties and stifle dissent.
Rights groups like Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) and CONTEND or the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy invited the dissenters to partake in the “Grand Mañanita” at the University of the Philippines Diliman and bring party accessories.
ETO NA! ETO NA! GRAND MAÑANITA sa June 12! 10am sa UP Diliman. #JunkTerrorBill #BawiinAngKalayaan#FightTyranny
Those who cannot attend may organize their own protests at their residences or in a safe venue, make placards to voice out their opposition and post it on social media under the hashtags “#JunkTerrorBill” and “#BawiinAngKalayaan,” MAT said.
As protesters were called to “party responsibly,” some Filipinos thought of strategies that would make them adhere to the guidelines imposed by the Malacañang when it comes to gatherings.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that mass gatherings must only have a maximum of 10 people under the regulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force for areas in general community quarantine.
“I don’t know anything about this mañanita, but gatherings of 10 people or more is prohibited. That is all,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Writer-performer Juan Miguel Severo then urged the attendees to “group” themselves into 10 for the demonstration in response to Roque’s remark.
Another Twitter user commented, “Okay, group yourselves into clusters of not more than 10 people!”
— #JunkTerrorBill (@Nemuel_lasher) June 10, 2020
“He didn’t exactly specify how many groups of people could be present in said ‘mañanita.’ So what could happen is that there would be a bunch of 10 peeps on one side and (within) a 2-meter distance, there would be another bunch of 10 peeps and so on,” another online user said.
The Philippine National Police previously said that protesters on Independence Day would be treated with “maximum tolerance” but it highly urged them to hold virtual protests instead.
However, on Thursday, PNP Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said that law enforcers would strictly enforce the prohibition against any form of mass gatherings on June 12.
The Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties, meanwhile, stated that there are no laws prohibiting rallies even during the quarantine period.
The group said that Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act “do not prohibit rallies nor contain provisions allowing the police to arrest people on alleged violation of ‘mass gathering’ rules.'”
“Even the IATF rules, otherwise known as the ECQ rules, do not provide for the prohibition of rallies or the arrest of rallyists,” it added.
The World Health Organization also believes that public protests are important even during a pandemic.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that protesters must do it safely and observe all of the safety measures.
“As much as possible, keep at least 1 meter from others, clean your hands, cover your cough and wear a mask if you attend a protest,” Ghebreyesus said in response to protests held globally in light of racial injustice.
“We remind all people to stay home if you are sick and contact a health care provider,” he added.