Aquino on papal visit: Don’t let PH be remembered for tragedy
MANILA, Philippines – “Do we want the Philippines to be recorded in history as having had a tragedy related to a pope?”
These were the words of President Benigno Aquino III in a video message released on Monday, January 12, three days before the expected arrival of Pope Francis in the country.
Aquino personally appealed to Filipinos to cooperate and ensure the Pope’s safety, as Malacañang provided videos showing past papal visits wherein the public was seen mobbing the Pope.
“Let us remember that this is a pastoral visit and it is the pope’s objective to mingle with many of our countrymen. Every meeting brings risk. We want to lessen this risk on the pope’s life and to balance the security of Pope Francis and his wishes,” the President said.
He added, “There is no doubt that in huge gatherings like this, chaos is possible even without any terrorism threat, and even more if someone has plans to start trouble.”
The President then asked for cooperation – given the “very huge challenge the visit of Pope Francis brings” – and reminded the people that the safety of the Pope and the public is at stake.
“The very honor of our country will be put in question,” he said, if anything wrong were to happen to Pope Francis while in the country.
Aquino also reminded the public to listen and share information, and encouraged Filipinos to show the world the country’s ability to work together to ensure the peaceful visit of the Pope.
Striking a balance
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country from January 15-19. Security officials said it will be a challenge to secure the pope, who hopes to mingle with the crowd.
Aquino too admitted the key for preparations is to strike a balance between the government’s wants and the Pope’s wishes – a sort of “give and take.” As an example, he cited the intimate encounter of Pope Francis in Palo, Leyte with 30 typhoon victims for lunch.
“We want to honor his wishes as much as we can. We are just asking that we also get the chance to fulfill our obligation, to do our job. In Leyte, he will be with 30 people. We asked for the names of these people that he will be very close to so we have the chance to at least run a background check on those who will be with him,” Aquino explained to reporters after delivering his video message.
He also pointed to the Pope’s insistence of riding an open Popemobile to mingle with the crowd, which forced the Presidential Security Group to change their usual security process. – Rappler.com