Protest peacefully on SONA, AFP urges militants

While it respects the people’s right to freedom of expression and assembly, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) called on people who will join protests in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) to conduct such actions in a peaceful and orderly manner.

“But if they have to pursue those rights, they should do so peaceably and with due regard to the opinion, safety, and well-being of others,” AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a message to reporters late Sunday.

He also urged protesters to be more discerning of the issues before exercising their freedom of expression and of assembly.

“We likewise entreat them to examine the motivations of individuals who or groups that draw them to the streets,” Arevalo added.

This is because at the end of the day, both protesters and security forces are Filipinos whose predisposition is how to be part of the solution, not exasperation, the AFP spokesperson added.

“While security forces endeavor to ensure a peaceful environment during the SONA, our people should be alert. Be particularly vigilant of what is happening around them. Be actively involved by reporting to the AFP and the PNP (Philippine National Police) any suspicious individuals or activities they observe,” the military official emphasized.

Arevalo also stressed that while security forces were ordered to exercise “maximum tolerance”, they are duty-bound to ensure that no lives are placed in serious jeopardy, he added.

Earlier, the AFP announced that it will be deploying its Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) to help the PNP secure Monday’s proceedings.

JTF-NCR will deploy three infantry companies, two infantry platoons, seven civil disturbance management companies, three search-and-rescue response teams, one air defense asset team and two chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear explosives teams. PNA