DOH backs Church on discouraging flagellation

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Health Secretary Enrique Ona yesterday urged Catholic devotees to heed the Church’s advice against scourging themselves as public penance this Holy Week.

“Our Catholic Church leaders do not advise such practices. Let us just pray hard and live a moral life as our penitence,” said Ona.

During Lent, some Catholic devotees undergo the devotional practice of flagellation through whipping or lashing to repent for their sins.

Some flagellants go as far as having themselves nailed to the cross to reenact the suffering of Jesus Christ to save mankind from sin.

The provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga have become popular for acts of flagellation, which have been drawing local and foreign tourists every year.

Ona said there are other ways of making penance “other than hurting ourselves that way.”

According to DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, flagellants are at risk of developing tetanus because of cuts or wounds that are exposed to dust and other dirty elements.

“I think it would be better if they get anti-tetanus shot to protect them against infection. They also have to make sure that the instruments they use are sterilized to prevent infection,” he added.

Tayag said that it is also important for flagellants to drink lots of water to prevent dehydration or heatstroke, which could be fatal.

At least 300 policemen, including K-9 unit members, would be deployed to the three crucifixion sites in San Fernando City in Pampanga on Good Friday.

Senior Superintendent Marlon Madrid, officer-in-charge of the Pampanga provincial police office, said the Philippine National Police (PNP) security personnel that will come from Pampanga Pubic Safety Company, Regional Pubic Safety Battalion and the San Fernando City police would be assigned to barangays San Pedro Cutud, Sta. Lucia and San Juan during the reenactment of the crucifixion on Good Friday.

Madrid said the policemen would also manage traffic as part of “Oplan Maleldo (Holy Week).”

Superintendent Edilberto Petillano, officer-in-charge of the San Fernando City police, said closed circuit television cameras would be installed in the three barangays to ensure the safety of local and foreign tourists.

At least 20 penitents will be nailed in the three crucifixion sites this Good Friday, said City Mayor Edwin Santiago.

One of them is Ben Enaje, who will be nailed for the 28th time at San Pedro Cutud.

Santiago said barangay tanods and volunteers from non-government organizations (NGOs) would also be deployed to beef up security during the crucifixion.

Madrid urged the public to avoid bringing jewelry, gadgets and other valuables to avoid being victimized by robbers in the crowded areas.

The Pampanga police also reactivated Oplan Lakbay Alalay to assist motorists and commuters.

Madrid ordered local police chiefs to set up police assistance desks in transport terminals, busy intersections, and recreational areas.

Central Luzon police director Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta said Oplan Summer Vacation 3 or Sumvac is now fully activated in strategic areas where the Holy Week crowd pass through and converge in the region.

He said motorist and police assistance desks have been established along major roads, especially at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), and the Jose Abad Santos Avenue (JASA) formerly Gapan-Olongapo Road in Lubao, Pampanga.

The Department of Publc Works and Highways (DPWH) has also formed teams that would provide repair and towing services to motorists.

Petrasanta said the Regional Highway Patrol Unit 3 is the lead police unit supervising the flow of traffic, especially in areas identified as choke points.

“Holy Week is the season when we normally experience exodus of motorists going to spend their vacation and other outdoor activities. Policemen will be there on the streets to assist the public and supervise traffic to ensure the safety of travelers heading to the provinces,” said Petrasanta. – With Ric Sapnu, Ding Cervantes, Charlie Lagasca

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