On July 23 (Monday), President Noynoy Aquino will deliver his third state of the nation address (SONA) at the House of Representatives building, Batasang Pambansa Complex, on Batasan Road in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and other VIPs will attend the event.
The SONA is traditionally accompanied by anti-government rallies, which tend to be concentrated along Commonwealth Avenue, the main highway leading to Batasang Pambansa. During the 2011 SONA of President Aquino, approximately 5,500 protesters rallied in Metro Manila; an estimated 3,000 of the total protesters rallied on Commonwealth Avenue.
This year, protest organizers claim that as many 10,000 people will participate in the rallies. Authorities, however, said the number of protesters from leftist and other militant groups will likely remain between 5,000-5,500 people. Aside from Commonwealth Avenue, similar small-scale rallies could take place at the following traditional rally sites:
- Quezon Memorial Circle on Elliptical Road, People Power Monument, and the EDSA Shrine in Quezon City
- Liwasang Bonifacio, Chino Roces Bridge (Mendiola), and Plaza Miranda in Manila City
- Ayala Avenue in Makati City.
The annual anti-government rallies always lead to very heavy traffic along Commonwealth Avenue, the major roads adjacent to Commonwealth Avenue, and the vicinity of the other rally sites. Several schools, government offices, and businesses located in this area normally close for the day.
Authorities will reroute traffic in the vicinity of Batasang Pambansa and ban all rallies from Batasan Road to Saint Peter’s Church, a traditional gathering place for the opposition, on Commonwealth Avenue.
Metro Manila’s government security forces will be placed on full alert during the SONA. Authorities will seal off all major entry and exit points to the Congressional complex. The Philippine National Police (PNP) will deploy 6,400 anti-riot police at the vicinity of Batasang Pambansa and at all major roads leading to the area. The PNP will also set up three lines of defense along Commonwealth Avenue to prevent protesters from accessing the lower house: 1) the area fronting Saint Peter’s Parish; 2) the area fronting Ever Gotesco shopping mall; and 3) the perimeter of Batasang Pambansa Complex. The PNP will separately deploy its Police Security Protection Group specifically to secure dignitaries and VIP guests.
The PNP’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) and approximately 400 Philippine military personnel will be placed on standby in case there is a need for rapid deployment.
The heavy police deployment and tightened security measures are largely precautionary, aimed at maintaining peace and order, as well as facilitating both vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the most affected areas. In the past, a few minor scuffles erupted between the protesters and anti-riot police. For the most part, anti-government rallies during the annual SONA have been generally peaceful. Last year, no incidents were reported.
Currently, there is no credible information pertaining to a plot to sow violence or terror during the 2012 SONA. In the past, authorities issued statements before major gatherings, warning of possible rebel or terrorist plans to infiltrate crowds and create chaos. Such statements were believed to be made to deter people from joining the rallies.
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