Davao City’s top cop urged to respect freedom of expression and assembly

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 July) — A leader of a militant group here urged Davao City Police Office (DCPO) chief Col. Kirby Kraft to respect the constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly after the official made a threat to arrest protesters during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday afternoon.

Jay Apiag, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson, reminded Kraft earlier Monday that the 1987 Philippine Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression and assembly even in time of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Apiag noted the omnibus guidelines of the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) “are merely rules that could not replace the Constitution and other international rights instruments.”

“We [would like to] remind Kraft not to violate the law. The constitutional rights of the people for free expression and freedom of assembly are still in place even if we face a global pandemic,” he added.

He said the protest will start at 3 p.m. Monday at the Freedom Park along Roxas Avenue.

Apiag said the protesters would adhere to the guidelines set by the COVID-19 IATF-MEID, bearing in mind the “minimum health protocols that will be followed in the conduct of this physical protest.”

In a text message, Kraft said that security forces have been deployed in “strategic areas” of the city and are ready to arrest the violators of quarantine guidelines.

He maintained the police here would strictly enforce the guidelines issued by the COVID-19 IATF-MEID, which, among others, prohibit mass gatherings.

“Per IATF, mass gatherings are prohibited. We will enforce the law,” he said.

As of July 26, Davao Region recorded 1,156 cases with 45 deaths and 648 recoveries. Of the total cases, 782 are in Davao City, 122 in Davao del Norte, 50 in Davao del Sur, 80 in Davao de Oro, 96 in Davao Oriental and 26 in Davao Occidental.

Duterte, who will end his six-year term noon of June 30, 2022, is the first Mindanawon leader who ascended to the country’s highest position.

The President served as mayor of Davao City from 1988 to 1998, representative of the first district from 1998 to 2001 and mayor again from 2001 to 2010, vice mayor to his daughter-mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio from 2010 to 2013, and mayor from 2013 to 2016.

Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio ran for mayor in 2016 while her father for President. She was re-elected in 2019.

Duterte-Carpio earlier encouraged the Dabawenyos to listen to her father’s SONA to get themselves informed on the efforts of the government, particularly the Executive Department, in delivering services to the public and to promote healthy discussions among the people.