Two House bills that seek to repeal Batas Pambansa 880–which was used to justify the arrest of Dinky Soliman and Enteng Romano yesterday–have already been approved by the House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights: Bayan Muna’s House Bill 1555 and Akbayan’s House Bill 4802.
HB 1555, or the proposed The Freedom of Expression Act of 2004 by Rep. Satur Ocampo and other Bayan Muna Representatives, provides for the following:
a) no permit requirement for the holding of a public assembly;
b) non-interference from law enforcement authorities during public assemblies;
c) extension of police assistance when requested;
d) no dispersal of public assembly; and
e) immunity from arrest and taxation.
In the explanatory note for the bill, Bayan Muna says that the authorities invoke the “No Permit, No Rally” rule to disperse peaceful rallies. “The Marcos-period Batasang Pambansa Bilang 880 has been the convenient excuse for state forces to suppress otherwise peaceful demonstrations, effectively curtailing the basic constitutional rights to assembly, free speech and petition of government for redress of grievances.”
Meanwhile, House Bill 4802, or the proposed Public Assembly Act of 2005 by Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales, provides that the sole requirement for holding public assemblies is to inform the city or town mayor prior to the event. No permit will be necessary when the rally will be held in a freedom park.
The Committee on Human Rights led by Rosales approved the bills on November 30 last year. It has also agreed to form a technical working group to consolidate the two measures.
House Bill 4837 by Partido ng Manggagawa Rep. Renato Magtubo, another proposed law that seeks to repeal BP880, is being reported at the House website as pending with the Committee on human rights since November 7, 2005.
The the approval of any or all of these measures will definitely kill Arroyo’s calibrated preemptive response (CPR) . We will eagerly await it. So will Dinky and Enteng, the activists who frequent Mendiola, and even Fernando Poe Jr.’s supporters.