Tighter security in Black Nazarene rites urged
A Catholic bishop has called on the police and military to intensify security during the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Monday, saying that reports of foreign extremists seen actively moving about in southern Mindanao should not be taken for granted.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines must take action on the reports especially when around eight million Catholic faithful are expected to converge in the biggest religious event in Quiapo.
“I appeal to the authorities to be [aggressive] in their security … we must remember that terrorists have the capability to hurt people as in Nigeria where so many Christians were killed during Christmas Day,” Bastes said over the Church-run Radio Veritas Wednesday.
Bastes was referring to the attacks on Christians by the Muslim militant group Boko Haram. The group bombed several churches in northern Nigeria on December 25, just as churchgoers were streaming out after celebrating Christmas Mass. The attacks killed at least 39 people.
Bastes raised his concerns after an AFP military commander disclosed that at least five foreign extremists have been hiding on a remote island in Mindanao and could help connect Filipino terrorists to financiers and combat trainers like the al-Qaida terrorist network.
“Let us not take it for granted. Let the PNP and AFP take action on this especially their intelligence since they are the ones capable of detecting the presence of terrorists,” said the prelate.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, security officials tasked to ensure the safety of the multitudes of Black Nazarene devotees on Monday assured the public that they were on alert and have not monitored any threats so far.
The Manila Police District will reportedly field 1,000 policemen to secure areas of convergence and the route of the procession. Other police districts will be deploying 600 more to provide assistance to the MPD. Traffic enforces will also be deployed to assist motorists.
While classes in all public schools in Manila have already been ordered suspended, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim appealed to private schools—particularly those in the University Belt—to do the same.
Lim said it was best to suspend classes on that day to ensure the safety of students.
He also advised devotees against drinking and bringing alcohol, wearing jewelries and bringing along children with them during the procession.
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