A bill allowing peaceful assemblies in freedom parks, privately owned lots and the campuses of government-operated educational institutions without the need to secure permits from state authorities has been endorsed for plenary approval by the House Committee on People’s Participation.
The consolidate measure—House Bill 5411—includes as one of the authors Rep. Cresente Paez of the COOP-NATCCO partylist group, which is an ally of the National Unity Party (NUP) under the Coalition for Peace and Development.
The other authors include Manila Rep. Benjamin Asilo, the chairman of the people’s participation committee; and Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, Maximo Rodriguez of the ABAMIN partylist group, Ibarra Gutierrez and Walden Bello of Akbayan, Alfredo Vargas III of Quezon City, Noel Villanueva of Tarlac, Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna and Terry Ridon of Kabataan.
Under the measure, a public assembly in a public area is governed by local laws, which means that their organizers must secure a notice from the city or municipal mayor who has jurisdiction over the place where this would be held.
No notice is necessary, however, if the assembly is conducted in: a freedom park duly established by law or ordinance; a private property with the consent of the owner or the person entitled to its legal possession; or in the campus of a government-owned and operated educational institution, subject to its rules and regulations.
Processions, rallies, parades, demonstrations and public meetings for religious purposes are also governed by local ordinances, the bill states.
The measure also says that “if there is clear and convincing evidence based on personal knowledge that the public assembly will create a clear and present danger to public order, public safety, public morals or public health, the city or municipal mayor may file an action before the appropriate regional trial court to enjoin the holding of the public assembly.”
The authors said public assemblies can be dispersed if incidents of violence or disturbances persist or are unabated.
Under HB 5411, “the commanding officer of the law enforcement contingent shall audibly issue another warning to the participants and, after a reasonable period of time, order the dispersal of the violent assembly.”
“No excessive force shall be used by law enforcement units in the dispersal. Isolated acts or incidents of disorder or breach of the peace during the public assembly do not constitute a ground for dispersal,” the measure states.
Excluded from the definition and scope of the term “public assembly” in the bill are picketing and other concerted acts in strike areas by workers and employees resulting from labor disputes.
Political meetings and rallies held during election campaign periods are not covered by HB 5411.