The Quezon City government, the Quezon City Police District and several progressive groups agreed to put a premium on health protocols during the latter’s respective programs on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Mayor Joy Belmonte, Quezon City Police Chief  General Antonio Yarra, City Attorney Orlando Paolo Casimiro and Chief of Staff Rowena Macatao met with Renato Reyes (Bayan), Joshua Mata (Sentro), Flora Santos (Sanlakas), Gio Tiongson (Akbayan) and Dante Lagman (Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino) Saturday morning to agree on how these groups could carry out their SONA-related activities without risk to public health.

Belmonte stressed that the Delta variant and the prevailing health issues should be of primordial consideration during Monday’s rallies in freedom parks, even as the city recognizes the constitutional rights of the people to peaceable assembly and freedom of speech.

“We have an existing health crisis made more volatile by the presence of the highly infectious Delta variant in Metro Manila. It is everyone’s civic duty to adhere to minimum health standards and limited mobility”, Belmonte stressed.

Belmonte approved the holding of the rallies on the condition that the names and contact details of all rally  participants be submitted to the CESU for contact tracing should any individual test positive, and that a plan of their health protocols be submitted for approval. “We were assured by the rally organizers that they would closely monitor their ranks and we consented, subject to strict adherence to health protocols,” Belmonte said.

Rally organizers also agreed to abide by the city’s ordinances and do away with any program along Commonwealth Avenue to avoid disrupting the flow of traffic. Their respective programs at their assembly areas will also be shortened to reduce exposure. The mayor also encouraged organizers to allow only the fully vaccinated to attend the rallies in order to lessen health risks. It was also agreed that the march would not extend beyond the  St. Peter’s chapels (Tandang Sora).

As per the organizers, food will not be served, and facemasks, faceshields, and hand sanitizers will be provided to those in attendance.

They also acceded to Belmonte’s request not to allow minors and senior citizens, even if fully vaccinated,  in their assemblies.

This year’s SONA activities is the first time the Quezon City government represented by the mayor, the QCPD and the various progressive groups agreed to work together to uphold both the human right to health and the constitutional rights to peaceable assembly and free speech.