By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

Preview image: @juanachange

Protesters gathered at the UP Diliman Friday morning for a “grand mañanita” rally that defied a government ban on mass protests and intermittent rains, as the Philippines celebrated its 122nd Independence Day.

The event name was a jab at Major General Debold Sinas, the National Capital Region Police Office chief who avoided arrest despite quarantine violations.

Protesters called for the junking of the controversial anti-terrorism bill, which many human rights groups feared would trample upon basic human rights, and called out the Duterte administration’s poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on June 6 advised protesters to label their mass gathering as a “mañanita” to avoid arrests like Sinas.

Organizers urged attendees to wear “appropriate” mañanita outfits and bring party accessories while reminding to practice social distancing.

Performance artist “Juana Change” (Mae Paner) came cosplayed as Sinas, complete with a bouquet of red roses and a Transformers Optimus Prime cake that his men gifted him for his birthday celebration in May.

Sari-sari store vendor “Aling Marie,” who went viral over a live video castigating supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte, addressed rallyists.

The event, which proceeded despite rains brought by Tropical Depression “Butchoy,” ended with no arrests.

The Philippine National Police previously told protesters to stage only online protests, as gatherings of more than 10 people remained barred under general community quarantine measures.

Interior chief Eduardo Año also urged the public over a GMA News TV interview to air their grievances online to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

However, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NULP) said there was no law prohibiting protests amid pandemic.

“There is no law prohibiting rallies during the Covid-19 pandemic. R.A. No. 11469 (Bayanihan Act) and R.A. 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases) do not prohibit rallies. They do not have provisions allowing arrests simply on the alleged violation of ‘mass gathering or quarantine rules,’” NULP said in a statement.