SONA 2016 'most peaceful' – PNP
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) said President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, was the "most peaceful" in recent history.
In a statement to media, PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said the SONA went by "without any recorded violent incident among demonstrators."
"Leaders of various cause-oriented groups manifested support for the President and ensured discipline among their members. Commuters along Commonwealth Avenue were thankful for not suffering the usual traffic during previous SONA," added Carlos.
Unlike in previous SONAs, protesters were allowed much closer to the Batasang Pambansa where top officials – from the entire Congress, the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps, among others – gathered to hear Duterte's first formal address to the nation.
The SONA in 2015, former president Benigno Aquino III's last, for instance, saw two police personnel and at least 15 protesters injured. SONAs of the past also saw police dispersing protesters using water cannons.
A stage, in fact, was set up a mere 300 meters away from the building.
No less than PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa paid a visit to protesters, assuring them that police were there to protect them, and not antagonize them.
Right after visiting the tactical command post located right across one of the Batasang Pambansa's gates, Dela Rosa instructed police deployed in anticipation of SONA protests to remove their helmets and lay down their shields.
"Relax," Dela Rosa repeatedly told the men and women stationed outside the Batasang Pambansa.
Malacañang itself allowed protesters to be stationed much closer to the SONA venue, Dela Rosa noted.
After his SONA, Duterte himself met with activists, Lumad and Muslim leaders inside the Batasang Pambansa. Cops ushered Duterte's guests just as they were getting ready to leave after a day of protests. – Rappler.com