Lopez: Dabawenyos have ‘constitutional right of free assembly and expression’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 March) – Former Representative Ruy Elias Lopez, of Davao City’s third congressional district and now challenging incumbent Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte in the mayoral race in May, said on Tuesday that Dabawenyos have “a constitutional right of free assembly and expression.”

Former Rep. Ruy Elias Lopez. Photo from his Facebook page

Lopez, a lawyer, said this in reaction to Executive Order 10 issued by Mayor Sara Duterte on Monday prohibiting political caravans and motorcades here.
Lopez said although the exercise of the rights of free assembly and expression is not absolute, the State can only “regulate” but not “prevent” the exercise of these rights under the general welfare clause, referring to the provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
“In regulating the exercise of these rights, the State must make sure that the same shall be reasonable,” he said.
Lopez, the son of former mayor Elias Baguio Lopez, said he has no plans of challenging Duterte’s order before the court as he does not intend to organize motorcades for his campaign.
“I have a number of strategies to reach out and communicate to as many of the 1 million voters as possible within the time period for campaigning,” he pointed out.
Among the reasons cited for prohibiting caravans and motorcades include “the continuing increase of fuel costs, the inconvenience of the traffic jams it will create and the ongoing public want due to the economic losses from the pandemic coupled with the rising prices of basic commodities.”

But as the mayor banned them locally, her team recently staged a 28-day national caravan dubbed “Mahalin Natin ang Pilipinas Ride” for the whole month of February where she and several supporters had travelled from Davao City to several areas around the country wooing voters for her campaign in the vice presidential race.
EO10 was issued to “provide guidelines in securing the requisite permit in the conduct of election campaign activities” until May 8, 2022, in connection with the national and local Elections.
Mayor Duterte’s executive order noted that the city has partially adopted COMELEC Resolution No. 10732, Series of 2021 (guidelines for the campaign period under the “new normal”), except for Section 16 that provides for guidelines on motorcades and caravans.
All political parties and organizers have been directed to coordinate “with the appropriate Regional or District Election Officer for their activities,” the executive order states.
It added that “no permit or application shall be filed with the City Government of Davao except to pay regulatory fees that may be required by law or ordinance.”
“The political activity under Resolution 10732 except Section 16 thereof shall be deemed approved immediately after payment of fees,” it said.
Aside from Lopez, the mayor’s other brother, Paolo (“Pulong”) is also facing another contender in the race for the congressional race in the city’s first district.

Challenging Paolo’s seat is development worker Mags Maglana.

Lopez and Maglana seek to end the more than three-decade rule of the Duterte family here. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)