Karapatan hits House approval of bill restricting public assembly

The House of Representatives, voting 212-55, approved House Bill No. 6834 on its third and final reading yesterday, February 6, 2018. The said bill is set to replace the Batas Pambansa (BP) 880 or the Public Assembly Act of 1985. 

Under HB 6834, in lieu of securing a permit, rally organizers would need to serve a notice to the mayor, three working days before the protest. The bill will impose graver penalties of 6 months to 6 years imprisonment for rallies without notice, or those held outside the notice’s coverage.
“A permit or a notice should is not a prerequisite for the Filipino people to exercise their right to peaceably assemble. That is a basic right enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. It should take precedence over insidious attempts by a Duterte-controlled Congress to pass another repressive legislation that will further curtail people’s rights,” said Palabay.

Karapatan mentioned that it is explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights section of the Constitution that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

“The use of BP 880 to file trumped-up charges against leaders have been tirelessly used by the police as basis for illegal arrests. No doubt that HB 6834 will be used to the same end,” Palabay noted.

The Karapatan secretary general cited the cases filed against Karapatan’s own paralegal staff, Neil Legaspi, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes and spokesperson Teddy Casino, and several other leaders of progressive groups who took to the streets on November 2017 during the visit of US President Donald Trump in the country. “The Duterte regime has caused and enabled systemic injustices that merits the people’s indignation and protest. Yet here it is, working ways to further cripple measures for individuals and organizations to demand accountability,” she added.

“HB 6834 was passed yesterday, along with the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the constitutionality of martial law extension in Mindanao. Duterte is relentless in bombarding us with repressive policies, expecting other draconian measures to pass discreetly. We thus call for vigilance. If all this is indicative of something, it is that the Duterte administration holds the legislative and the judiciary by its neck, and is completing the recipe for a full-blown dictatorship,” concluded Palabay.