Over 20K cops to be deployed to ‘challenging’ Black Nazarene festivities
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the cancellation of the traditional “traslacion” on the Feast of the Black Nazarene this year, over 20,000 police personnel would be deployed to ensure a safe and socially distanced holding of the festivities, amid the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., systems are in place in anticipation of the influx of devotees who will hear the hourly mass at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) on January 9, Saturday, it’s feast day.
Danao said they have inspected other churches where masses would be held on January 9.
But the biggest challenge, Danao said, would be for police to be on alert for any other untoward incidents, while also implementing minimum health standards such as preventing mass gatherings.
“Isa sa mga challenge ngayon ay ang pag-implement ng minimum health standard. Unlike before, kahit magdikit-dikit ang mga tao. Ngayon may problema tayo about sa COVID,” Danao said in a statement.
“Lalo na ngayon we have the latest strain of virus which is according to the World Health Organization (WHO) it is stronger than the original one so yun ang dapat nating bantayan,” he added.
The NCRPO chief explained that officers from the Special Action Force who have been deployed as early as last December 22 are already in place, while the Manila Police district will deploy six to seven thousand of its personnel to the ground.
Other districts within NCRPO including the Regional Headquarters Force and the Regional Mobile Force Battalion are expected to contribute around 20,000 police officers.
No vendors will be allowed within the vicinity of Quiapo Church, while church-goers are only allowed to bring transparent plastic bags and water containers to the places of worship.
In the past in accordance with tradition, the traslacion starts early morning on the feast day itself, moving from Quirino Grandstand towards Padre Burgos Avenue before the carriage is brought through its traditional routes in Manila.
This procession attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees who believe the Black Nazarene would answer their prayers, and/or is responsible for the blessings they receive.
Due to the massive crowds, the procession usually takes the whole day — in some cases, the Black Nazarene figure makes its way back into the Quiapo Church by early morning the next day.
Due to the threat of COVID-19 pandemic, Danao asked devotees to cooperate with authorities and observe health protocols without being ordered to do so.
“Since the health standard protocols have been implemented for almost a year, I solicit the cooperation of the church goers to implement self-imposed discipline like wearing face mask, face shield and observance of social distancing at all times,” he added.
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