PAMPANGA, Philippines – Figures attributed to police on the crowd size of the April 9 Leni-Kiko Pampanga grand rally may have been a misunderstanding, PNP Central Luzon (Region III) Director Police Brigadier General Matthew Baccay told Rappler in an interview on Thursday, April 14.
Baccay acknowledged that the chief of police in San Fernando, Pampanga, had mentioned an afternoon figure of 70,000. But he said the figure was for security planning purposes only and not meant to indicate audience size of Manalakaran Pampanga held on the grounds of Robinsons Starmills.
Rappler got in touch with Baccay after the PNP Central Luzon on April 11 posted a disclaimer on its Facebook page about figures attributed partly to them.
A Facebook post by local television network CLTV36 cited Baccay as the source of an afternoon crowd estimate of 70,000.
Toward the end of the grand rally, organizers announced a 220,000 crowd estimate, indicating it was a composite figure from local organizers, the PNP, and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
Manalakaran Pampanga program head Jose Irwin Nucum told Rappler these groups comprised the event’s command center.
Baccay, however, insisted: “Hindi kami nag-e-estimate ng crowd. We go to those places, nagpo-provide kami ng security, route, and area. We are not in the business of making estimates. Wala kaming nilabas, ang PNP, na estimate.”
(We don’t estimate crowds. We go to those places, provide security, route, and area. We are not in the business of making estimates. The PNP did not release an estimate.)
“Ang nagbigay ng figures na ‘yan, ang special report niyan, ang chief of police ng San Fernando City. (It was the police chief of San Fernando City who gave those figures.) Pero (But) that estimate is only for purposes of planning ng (of) security, not for any other purposes,” he added.
Nucum said the command center computed the crowd estimation based on the lot area with the number of attendees per square meter. He said the total area is 7 hectares but the crowd occupied around 5.5 hectares (55,000 square meter).
“If the density per square meter is two persons per square meter, then that makes the number of attendees at 110,000 by 6 pm per crowd estimate. After two hours, when drone shots and further ocular inspection of the place were done based on the more realistic density of the rallyists per square meter, the number of people was placed at four persons per square meter. This recomputation resulted in 190,000 and eventually to the final conservative estimate of 220,000. As we can see from the drone videos, people towards the stage are more crowded.”
Nucum also added that the people in the stage area, technical booth, media box, and those inside the mall, transportation terminal, and food stalls were not included in the crowd estimation.
“To those who don’t believe, they will only cast doubts on our assertions. We are not after the numbers, we are after the experience,” said Nucum. “Masayang dumating ang mga tao doon, masaya din silang umuwi (The people were happy when they arrived there, they were also happy when they left). We stand behind our numbers and move on.”
The record-breaking rally exceeded the 130,000 crowd at the March PasigLaban rally of the Leni-Kiko tandem. It was by far the grandest rally organized by local supporters and volunteers of any political candidate running for the upcoming 2022 election. – Rappler.com
Joann Manabat is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.