Over 7K personnel to secure President Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation (SONA)

MANILA – Around 5,400 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel and another 1,900 operatives from allied security agencies will be securing President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s fifth state-of-the-nation-address (SONA) Monday.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the 7th Union Asia Pacific Regional Conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on April 23, 2019. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In an interview with radio DZBB on Sunday, PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the augmentation force will come from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, military’s Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection and the Department of Public Order and Safety of Quezon City.

He said the entire PNP nationwide will be on full alert for Monday’s activities though they have yet to monitor any threats.

“We are still to monitor any threat, the only threat we have is the Covid-19 threat,” Eleazar added.

Despite the lack of security threats, he said the PNP still has prepared a contingency plan in case of a worse-case scenario.

Eleazar added that another security challenge during Monday’s SONA is the implementation of the health guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on mass gathering amid the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019.

He said the SONA-related protest actions will be held inside the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman after the Quezon City local government did not issue permit to the militant groups for the conduct of mass gathering along Commonwealth Avenue, the usual venue for SONA rallies, due to the directive issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The DILG directive reminds the local government units (LGUs) of the prohibition on mass gatherings to avoid the spread of the Covid-19.

In a press conference on Sunday, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said the NCRPO will maintain the full alert status being implemented since March following the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine.

Sinas said at least 30 bomb-sniffing dogs will also be deployed in Metro Manila including the UP campus, Senate of the Philippines in Pasay, and House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa complex.

He said there will be 1,900 reserved forces which is ready for deployment if necessary.

Sinas said there will be no traffic rerouting scheme along Commonwealth Avenue since protest actions are not allowed in the area during the fifth SONA due to Covid-19 pandemic.

He, however, said the NCRPO is still holding dialogue with the militant groups to ensure peaceful and orderly SONA.

Sinas said the protest actions are expected to start at 9 a.m. and finish at 12 noon Monday.

Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya reminded the public to avoid mass gatherings like protest rallies to prevent the coronavirus transmission.

“This is not and will never be unique to rallies. Thus, upon the advice of the Department of Health, the IATF issued Resolution No. 57 prohibiting any form of mass gathering as a measure against the further spread of Covid-19,” Malaya said in a statement.

He said all assemblies are subject to reasonable regulation of the authorities to protect public health and the general welfare.

“We appeal to the rally organizers not to compromise the health and welfare of the people. We ask them not to be blind to the scientific evidence that mass gatherings are the fastest way for the virus to spread among their ranks which can then infect their families and ultimately their communities,” he added.

Like his four previous SONAs, Duterte is set to deliver again his fifth SONA at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City but with only 50 persons allowed to attend the event due to the Covid-19 threat.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, however, said Duterte might deliver his SONA at the Malacañan Palace in Manila, in case one of those invited to attend the annual event at the Batasang Pambansa tests positive for the Covid-19.

Duterte is expected to tackle the government’s response against SONA as well as his priorities in the remaining two years of his administration. (PNA)