Malacañang: No specific threats against Pope
MANILA, Philippines – A few hours before Pope Francis arrives in the Philippines, Malacañang on Thursday, January 15, said there are no specific threats against the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
"Our government has done all that is necessary to ensure to ensure the security and safety of the Pope...There are no specific threats, only generic threats,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said during a briefing at the International Media Center.
The much-awaited 5-day visit of the Pope is expected to draw an estimated 6 million people, bigger than the crowd of 5 million that welcomed Pope John Paul II in 1995.
It was also in 1995 when the police uncovered a terrorist plot to kill John Paul II. This time around, however, the government is not taking preparations lightly, especially with the “security challenge” of Pope Francis preferring a popemobile that is open and not bulletproof.
Some 25,000 policemen and another 12,000 military troops have been deployed to secure routes and event venues both in Metro Manila and Leyte.
President Benigno Aquino III himself even conducted ocular inspections of the Pope’s official residence, the Quirino station of the LRT1 near it, Luneta where the Pope will say a mass, and Villamor Air Base two days before the Pope’s arrival.
"Our security agencies are considering every possible source of threat or danger, in line with our objective of ensuring the safety and security of the Pope, and of protecting the safety of our people at all times," Coloma added. (READ: Airlifts and emergencies: Keeping people safe in a papal visit)
For Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Filipinos will also have to do their part to keep safe a pope who wants to be close to the masses. (READ: Filipinos are best security for Pope)
"I think the best security plan for Pope Francis would be 5 million Filipinos attending mass in Luneta and taking care of one another," said Villegas, who also heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. – Rappler.com