MANILA, Philippines – More than 5,700 law enforcers will be deployed to secure devotees at the annual feast of the Black Nazarene on Monday, January 9, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.
“The number of personnel to be deployed has increased as compared to previous years,” Manila Police District director Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel said in a news conference on Thursday, January 5.
Coronel said 5,763 law enforcers will be deployed under his command for the security of devotees.
One of the reasons for the bigger deployment this year is the “increase in the number of participants in the Black Nazarene procession.”
Deployed personnel include those from the Manila Police District, the National Capital Regional Police Office, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
This comes as Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said the terrorist Maute Group as well as the Abu Sayyaf Group might target the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Monday.
The Feast of the Black Nazarene is held on January 9 each year.
It is expected to draw up to 8 million devotees raring to touch or see a 17th-century mulatto image of Jesus Christ, in a procession called the Traslacion.
In Thursday’s news conference, the PNP also said a terror threat in the Feast of the Black Nazarene “is always there” especially because there is a possible “spillover” of terrorist acts in Mindanao.
“We’re not saying there is no threat. There’s no information, but the threat is there. The threat is always there,” the police chief of the National Capital Region (NCR) said.
The threat, however, “is not clear, present, or imminent,” said Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, director of the NCR Police Office (NCRPO).
‘Retaliatory act’ by terrorists feared
Albayalde cited the recovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the NCR.
On November 28, for instance, an IED was found near the US embassy in Manila, with the police calling it an “attempted act of terrorism.”
Nearly 3 months before this, an IED exploded at a night market in Davao City, the turf of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Albayalde earlier said the IED outside the US embassy was the same as the one in Davao City.
In Thursday’s news conference, Albayalde also cited previous bombings in NCR as reason to believe that there is always a threat surrounding the Nazareno procession.
One of the previous incidents he cited was the Rizal Day bombings in December 2000.
Albayalde continued, “There is always that possibility of a retaliatory act from these threat groups, not only from Maute but all other threat groups, particularly threat groups coming from Mindanao.”
He added that Metro Manila is always a target in terror threats “because this is the seat of government.”
On top of this, Nazareno devotees increase year after year, requiring a bigger contingent of law enforcers to protect them.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada also said on Thursday, “The full force of the city hall is in place already for this procession.” – Rappler.com