By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) appealed to the millions of devotees expected to attend the traditional “Traslacion” or the procession of the revered image of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church in Manila to observe proper behavior and respect the sanctity of the religious activity.
PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said that by doing so, cases of casualties or injuries may also be prevented.
“The ultimate goal is to prevent, if not minimize, deaths or injuries that have been perennially associated with this annual event. To achieve this, we need the utmost cooperation of everyone, particularly the devotees who will participate in the activities,” Albayalde said in a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
“We enjoin all devotees joining the Traslacion to observe proper behavior and decorum befitting the sanctity of this religious rite,” he added.
According to the PNP chief, he already tasked the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to ensure the strict implementation of its security framework for the safety of the attendees.
Albayalde said the NCRPO, led by Director Guillermo Eleazar, will implement its operation plan effective 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 8, when a city-wide liquor ban shall be strictly enforced until after the culmination of the Traslacion.
“Unruly persons and those under the influence of drugs and alcohol will be immediately evicted from the activity,” he noted.
Albayalde also suspended the Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) of all firearms owners in Manila from 8 a.m. Tuesday, January 8, to 8 a.m. Thursday, January 10.
Accordingly, only members of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies (LEAs) who are performing their official duties and wearing agency-related uniforms will be allowed to carry firearms.
Meanwhile, Eleazar asked the devotees to refrain from bringing prohibited items during the procession including sharp, pointed and deadly weapons, backpack and other valuables, colored beverages or drinks in nontransparent containers, explosives or firecrackers, and illegal drugs.
Parents and guardians are also advised to refrain from bringing small children as they might get hurt in the procession, Eleazar said.
‘Postpone your trip’
Manila residents who also plan to leave their houses to spend the holiday are told to reconsider their options as doing so might cause them inconvenience, Albayalde said.
“As expected, the movement of a mammoth crowd of this magnitude will render all roads and peripheries along the 6.1-km procession route around the Luneta and Quiapo areas virtually inaccessible. Therefore, we strongly advise those with no urgent business in these areas to postpone their trips for another day for their own convenience,” he said.
“The mission is to assist devotees in ushering the holy image of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand back to the Minor Basilica in Quiapo,” he added.
Albayalde disclosed that they have not monitored any threat on public security although they are validating reports of possible intervention by Islamic militant groups, with the information allegedly coming from the Office of the City of Manila.
“Although these are unconfirmed reports, we are not taking them for granted. We are taking these reports seriously,” he noted.
Elsewhere across the country where similar feast of the Black Nazarene activities will be held, Albayalde ordered police regional and provincial offices to implement their respective security and public safety plans.
“We have not monitored any significant security issue that may possibly affect the otherwise peaceful and orderly celebration of the feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila this year including other major annual religious festivities celebrated in January such as the Feast of Sto. Niño, the patron saint of the Philippines; the Ati-Atihan in Aklan; Sinulog in Cebu; and Dinagyang in Iloilo,” he said.
He said the police force is ready and fine-tuning all the final coordination with various government agencies and concerned organizations such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine Red Cross (PRC), City of Manila, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and Archdiocese of Manila.
Aside from that, PNP national support units were also tasked to provide operational support to ground troops including the deployment of emergency and medical teams, mobile patrol, bay and river patrols, and intelligence operatives.
Around 7,200 personnel from the NCRPO will be deployed to secure the Traslacion this year while some 2,000 soldiers from Joint task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will serve as augmentation force.
Although the NCRPO initially assessed that about 2.5-million devotees are expected to participate in the Traslacion, Albayalde said they are anticipating a bigger number of participants this year as estimated by officials of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
Last year, the PNP estimated that around four million devotees attended the procession.