34 arrested ahead of SONA 2020

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 27) — At least 34 people have been arrested in Metro Manila hours before the fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday.

Metro Manila Police Chief Debold Sinas said five members of progressive transport group PISTON were arrested near Quezon Memorial Circle for violating the rule against the use of traditional jeepneys amid community quarantine restrictions. Five persons carrying protest materials were also apprehended in Caloocan City for riding a jeepney.

Sinas also reported that 24 persons on board a van were apprehended in Marikina City for violating physical distancing rules.

The PISTON members were apprehended near Quezon Memorial Circle and immediately brought to Camp Caringal, where complaints are being prepared against them, Sinas said.

"Hindi namin sila basta-bastang pakakawalan nang walang kaso para at least maramdaman nila that we mean business," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: We will not release them without a case, so they see that we mean business.]

The city government did not grant permits for any public assembly, in line with the national government’s ban on mass gatherings.

Rallyists are only allowed to hold their protests inside the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City. Groups of various advocacies are set to converge and hold a protest action dubbed "SONAgKAISA" inside the UP Campus from 10 am to 12 pm. Police thanked the protesters for following minimum health protocols and for holding a peaceful protest action. 

PNP said security forces will exercise maximum tolerance, but discouraged other rallyists nationwide from gathering as coronavirus remains a threat. The PNP said it will arrest protesters if the activities become too "extreme."

Duterte will hold his penultimate address before the nation at 4 p.m. at the Batasang Pambansa, the traditional venue for the constitutionally mandated SONA.

The Metro Manila police chief said they have deployed personnel in civilian clothes to closely monitor the vicinity of Commonwealth Avenue.

"Kapag may makita, pagsasabihan, at huhulihin kaagad. Wala nang usap-usap pa diyan sa kalsada. Kapag may grupo, sisitahin bakit grupo-grupo. Kapag may ilalabas na placard, automatic huli sila," he said.

[Translation: They will be apprehended and arrested. There will be no discussions. Those who converge in groups will be apprehended. Those who will bring out protest placards will be automatically arrested.]

Over 6,000 police personnel are deployed along Batasang Pambansa and Commonwealth Avenue to secure the venue and its perimeters to ensure President Rodrigo Duterte's fifth State of the Nation Address will run safely and smoothly on Monday afternoon.

Nearly 2,000 security personnel are on standby for possible augmentation in case protests get too rowdy.