PNP ensures orderly celebration of Black Nazarene feast

Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II assured the public yesterday that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has made necessary preparations to ensure the orderly celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

“This is the whole of PNP at work. Everyone is contributing to make sure that both petty and high-profile criminals will not take advantage of the celebration,” Roxas said.

He said the PNP has begun mobilization of 3,500 of its personnel.

The policemen were deployed at Quirino Grandstand, where the traditional pahalik (kissing the image) began at 4 a.m. yesterday.

The policemen would be in their assigned deployment area an hour before procession starts at 7 a.m. today.

Roxas said that the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) and the Manila Police District (MPD) have also been closely coordinating with each other as early as last December to effectively maintain peace and order during the annual celebration.

“Every year, millions of people from all walks of life participate in the festivities and we have to keep them safe from any harm,” he stressed.

In this light, the MPD has organized a task group responsible for the route security of the motorcade and parade, and crowd control and management. The task group has also begun clearing illegal vendors along the procession route, particularly along Plaza Miranda, Plaza Lacson and other areas surrounding Quiapo Church.

Anti-crime operations under Oplan Lambat-Sibat are also being conducted to pre-empt and deter criminal activities that might occur during the feast day.

NCRPO chief Director Carmelo Valmoria as well urged devotees to be extra careful as they target a lesser casualty figure for today’s activities.

Valmoria said that the injury figure in the previous Black Nazarene procession was high because of the devotees themselves, who resort to pushing each other to get near the carriage.

Valmoria said the main goal of the Church and the security committee for today’s activity is to reduce the number of injuries.

For his part, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said the city government is closely coordinating with Church leaders to ensure that no untoward incident would happen in today’s celebration.

Estrada, who remains undecided whether or not he would join the procession, advised devotees not to be unruly.

He said the city government is expecting no less than three million people in the procession today.

Change in procession route

A day before a multitude of devotees joins this year’s traslacion, Quiapo Church rector Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio Jr. announced yesterday that there would be a slight detour in the procession route.

Ignacio said that as result of the fire at the old Philippine National Bank (PNB) building located along Escolta, organizers have decided to use the parallel Dasmariñas street for the procession.

“The PNB building was already condemned in the past, then it caught fire so it is now very weak,” he said, citing Manila City administrator Ericson Alcovendraz had noted there could be falling debris.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino and Alcovendraz conducted a survey and decided that Dasmariñas street “is the best option.”

Officials also made sure that the carriage of the Black Nazarene would remain sturdy, so they attached forklift wheels to avoid previous incidents of flat tires.

Ignacio assured the public that the short concrete bridge at Dasmariñas could bear the weight of the Nazareno, its carriage and the devotees.

But he advised shops along Dasmariñas “to board up their glass windows because there is a chance these would be broken” during the expected mad scramble today, as devotees try to get a chance to touch the image of the Black Nazarene or pull the rope of its carriage.

Ignacio noted that the changes in route could mean longer procession time.

“Maybe this is one way for the Nazareno to tell us to make more sacrifices; after all we are preparing for the coming of Pope Francis and our country has experienced many calamities. We have to pray more,” he said.  – Helen Flores, Jose Rodel Clapano, Victor Martin, Janvic Mateo, Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe











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