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7 pre-SONA incidents that scream ‘make it make sense’

President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, July 27, has everyone on edge. At a time when we’ve exceeded 80,000 COVID-19 cases, we all want to know one thing: Ano na? 

We’re dealing with a lot as a nation right now. There’s our mounting debt, increasing coronavirus cases, the seeming (im)possibility of mass testing, the Anti-Terror Law, the ever-changing quarantine conditions and the like. Yet days (and hours) before SONA 2020 even starts, we may have already witnessed the real state of our nation. 

From the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s crackdown of progressive magazine Pinoy Weekly to the arrest of SONA protesters in Quiapo Church, here are some pre-SONA incidents that might have you reaching for a paracetamol.

Hatid Tulong Program at the Rizal Memorial Stadium 

We reached an all-time high in COVID-19 cases on July 26. And with thousands of Filipinos crammed inside Rizal Memorial Stadium, it’s hard not to get paranoid. These people are waiting to get tested before they can return safely to their respective hometowns, prompting many, including Richard Gomez and celebrities, to react to the hazards posed by such a gathering.

Pinoy Weekly’s shutdown

On July 26, Sunday, PNP seized copies of progressive magazine Pinoy Weekly from an urban poor organization’s Bulacan office. The police officers accused the magazine of spreading anti-government sentiments. This is the first incident in recent memory in which law officials confiscated alleged anti-government materials.

PNP “roleplaying” as activists to prep for SONA protest

To prep for the annual SONA ng Bayan protest in Quezon City, the PNP decided to get “creative” through LARPing (live-action roleplaying). Some police officers blended in with protesters, while others practiced crowd control. Another interesting choice they made is the lack of social distancing between officers while LARPing.

Drivers from PISTON got arrested (again)

Even before they could reach protest grounds, several drivers from transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) were detained yet again. According to the group’s tweet, the drivers were taken into custody at Quezon City Circle at 8:30 this morning.

What were these drivers’ crimes? Quoting National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas (yes, “mañanita” and “alleged harassment” Sinas) words, they were arrested because “they drove traditional jeepneys.”

Sinas’ saying “basta may placard, arestado”

While declaring Commonwealth Avenue as a no-protest zone, Sinas made some bold statements during a media briefing earlier today. He said protesters who dare to step in Commonwealth Ave. grounds will get arrested. “Hindi namin sila basta-basta pakakawalan na walang kaso para malaman nila that we mean business,” says Sinas.

He also added that police personnel dressed as civilians will be deployed around the area, “Walang usap-usap. Kapag may maglabas ng placard, huli agad.”

MPD confiscating protest materials in church

 

Taking a page from Sinas’ statement, the Manila Police Department confiscated protest materials in the middle of a mass in Quiapo Church. A churchgoer had to tap the policemen’s shoulder to ask them to kindly leave. The owner of said materials was neither using them during mass nor causing public disturbance.

Akbayan Citizens Action Party spokesperson Macris Cabreros explained that the policemen didn’t explain to the owners why their bags were getting confiscated. “Pinahayag ko na umaasa ako sa feedback sa kanila dahil ‘yung mga kasama sa likod ng simbahan ay may baon lang na placard. Hindi po nila ginagamit, baka baon lang nila para hahabol sa UP mamaya. Hindi po sila nagrarally sa simbahan,” adds Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

Youth activists from Tuguegarao City were illegally arrested

A volunteer teacher from Save Our Schools Network reported a troubling incident on her Twitter account. According to Kabataan Partylist – Cagayan Valley, two youth activists were allegedly arrested illegally before the #SONAgKAISA program in their area started. In a tweet, she says “dinumog na sila ng kapulisan” before arriving at the SONA program.

Read more:
SONA 2020 lewks are dropping, and the category is: “anti-fascist chic”
The gov’t says it isn’t doing mass testing, but “expanded target testing”
Anti-Terror Law Day 1: Gen. Sinas allegedly “harassed” a family

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Rogin Losa
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