Security expert bares threats to watch out for during Pope Francis visit
MANILA, Philippines – Despite security officials’ pronouncements that there are no security threats except for crowd management during the five-day visit of Pope Francis starting on Thursday, a security expert has identified safety hazards and security threats to watch out for.
Ace Esmeralda, security consultancy expert, said in his website SecurityMatters’ magazine, where he is also editor-in-chief, cited poor quality of infrastructures and roads as some of the safety hazards during the pontiff’s visit.
But he noted that the Pope’s convoy “will not be speeding through the roads like those of Obama.”
US President Barack Obama visited the country last year and strict security measures were adopted.
Esmeralda also echoed Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang’s concerns on “crowd surge” as a security challenge because the public would want to go near the Pope.
He said it is indeed “more challenging” to secure the Pope than heads of state like Presidents Benigno Aquino III and Barack Obama because it comes “with a twist.”
“If the religious fervor of those devotees of Black Nazarene will be manifested by the ‘fans’ of Pope Francis, then touching and mobbing him is not far out,” Esmeralda said.
He said the government could improve its physical barrier system and crowd control procedures based on its experience from the Feast of Black Nazarene last January 9, which was attended by millions.
Another challenge which Esmeralda cited which was “one of the high risks, if not highest” was the popemobile which is a non-bulletproof vehicle.
The government has made repeated statements that there are no terror threats on the upcoming visit but Esmeralda cited there are groups and individuals to watch out for.
“The government will not admit any threat, of course, without risking the cancellation or discouraging attendees to Papal activities,” he said.
The usual suspected threats to security are the local groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The CPP-NPA has previously declared ceasefire during the Pope’s visit but Esmeralda has his doubts.
“The NPA is noted for not honoring their own ceasefire declaration. What is the assurance that they have informed their smallest units about the ceasefire?”
He also said other threats include “lone wolves, copycats and psychopaths.”
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