Noy won’t smoke for a day as sacrifice for papal mass

Aie Balagtas See - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino once said he cannot quit smoking, but will be kicking the habit at least for one day: during Pope Francis’ mass at Quirino Grandstand on Sunday.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II revealed this yesterday as he dissuaded smokers from lighting up during the papal mass this weekend.

“Even the President will sacrifice,” Roxas said in Filipino during a security briefing on the government’s preparations for the pope’s final mass in the country.

Roxas stressed that although the venue is a public place, it should be treated as a “place of worship” out of respect for the pope and the mass and in consideration of the massive crowd.

“Please, let’s not do that. Treat the venue as if it were also a church. You don’t drink and smoke inside a church while hearing mass right?” he said.

Aquino earlier shot down calls for him to quit smoking, saying it’s one of his few remaining freedoms. He reportedly said that people voted for him despite the habit and he should be free to smoke as long as he’s not violating any rules.

‘Keep the roads open’

Roxas also appealed to the public to keep the pope’s motorcade route open so the pontiff could freely go around and meet people.

Three to five million people are expected to show up during the mass that would be held from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The concluding mass might draw the biggest crowd among the events of the pope.

Prior to the mass, the pope will go around Rizal Park on board an open popemobile for 15 minutes. Pope Francis, who is known for breaking protocol, has personally requested that he be allowed to go around.

Those who wish to attend mass should line up at the entrance points set up on Orosa Street, according to Metro Manila police director general Carmelo Valmoria.

The makeshift entrances will open at 6 a.m. on Sunday and will be equipped with 30 walkthrough metal scanners.

Valmoria said at least 70 police equipped with handheld scanners would also be deployed to fast-track the body search.

After passing the security checks, the people would be ushered to the grids set up in the grandstand and Rizal Park as designated areas for the spectators. Each grid, which measures about 40 meters by 40 meters, would have portalets and would be manned by eight policemen, 400 military reservists, about 20 health personnel and two marshals.

Filling the grids would be on a first come first served basis.

Valmoria reiterated his appeal to the public to avoid bringing selfie sticks and umbrellas. People are also discouraged from leaving their slots, because they would have to go through security scans on Orosa street again if they want to come back to the site. There is also no assurance that they could come back to their old grid.

People are also discouraged from using backpacks as they would prolong security checks.

Valmoria said it’s best to use transparent plastic bags as containers for their food and water.

Learning from ’95 papal visit

Roxas explained the grids were set up to avoid a repeat of Saint John Paul’s visit to the Philippines in 1995, when people blocked the streets that should have been utilized as the latter’s motorcade route.

This forced the government to ferry Pope John Paul II using a helicopter from the grandstand back to the Apostolic Nunciature.

The grids would also serve as “breathers” in case someone suffers from a medical problem and needs to be rushed to the hospital.

Aside from the grandstand, Roxas Boulevard was set up in such a way that people would be prevented from mobbing the pope’s motorcade on his arrival today.

Roxas said spectators are allowed to occupy the boulevard’s northbound lane, while the motorcade will pass through the southbound lane.

The designated spectators area, to be manned by policemen, would be blocked with concrete barriers. The lanes would be open three hours before the pontiff’s 6 p.m. arrival at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City from Sri Lanka.

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