Millions generally behaved well for Pope Francis’ Luneta Mass – PNP
MANILA, Philippines – How do you deal with a massive sea of people fervent with faith, undaunted by rain and cold, and determined to get the best seats?
The sheer volume of people wanting to hear Pope Francis’ Mass at the Luneta led some impatient early birds to push their way into the venue on Sunday morning and get the best spot at the front.
Some people sustained minor injuries in the jostling and shoving near the Orosa Avenue entrance, where two layers of security checks were set up for the historic Mass.
The commotion prompted the Philippine National Police to open the gates earlier than the 6 a.m. schedule in order to ease the pressure of thousands of people wanting to get in.
“The original security plan was initially implemented. But because of the sheer volume of the crowd, there were some pockets of disorder as people were getting impatient,” said PNP officer-in-charge Dep. Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina.
As of press time, the PNP has yet to release the number of people injured in these incidents.
The government planned the security arrangements for months and the PNP, which has been in charge of perimeter, venue and route security, expected such incidents because of the millions of people wanting to see the Pope.
Espina said some people who got impatient while waiting jostled and pushed their way to the front, wanting to get the best spot, with some getting injured.
Attendees flocking to the Luneta came from all directions, he added.
“We want to appeal to the public to be more patient. We are so concerned about the security of the people attending the Mass that we are doing this for them,” he stressed.
From an initial 50 entrances, 75 entrances were set up on Orosa Avenue to accommodate the attendees.
Espina said none of their metal detectors, walk-through scanners and other detection equipment broke down.
Ground commanders decided to open the gates early by an hour or two so that the 50 quadrants in front of the Quirino Grandstand would be occupied.
As of noon Sunday, policemen were still allowing people into the venue as some quadrants had not yet been filled.
In allowing some people into the venue to ease the pressure at the gates, some people managed to get in without completing the inspection.
Espina said policemen were going around the quadrants to double check the belongings of the occupants as a contingency measure.
Despite the minor incident, the PNP officer in charge still praised the public for their generally orderly behavior during the Pope’s public engagements during his stay in the country.
He observed that the public, while waiting for the Pope or his papal motorcade, would usually bear the long wait without anyone running unnecessarily.
Espina noted that the early morning commotion at the Luneta was aggravated by the fact that it was still dark, and that there were simply too many people wanting to get the best seats at the front.
“This is a sea of faith. The PNP is trying its best to address the situation and we are adjusting, adding more people as the situation calls for it,” he said.
There were policemen on stand by for contingency measures in case of the crowd swelling or malicious threats.
Director Ricardo Marquez, directorate for operations and the chief of the Joint Task Group Papal Visit, said they deployed civil disturbance managements units on Saturday since there were people waiting at the Luneta as early as 5:30 am Saturday.
To allow people outside the Luneta to watch the Mass, 40 video walls around the park and installed on trucks were set up for the event.
After the event, exits all over the Luneta will be open to accommodate the people leaving the venue.
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