The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it is fully prepared to protect Pope Francis and thwart any attempt on the safety of the Holy Father.
“Although we see no threats against Pope Francis, our security preparations include all kinds of worst-case scenarios,” according to AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla.
Part of the AFP’s security preparations is monitoring of lawless groups, including the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Padilla, however, said they have eliminated the communist rebels from the equation after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered its armed wing, the NPA, to stop offensive operations against soldiers and the police on December 24-26, December 31-January 1, and during the papal visit on January 15-19.
He added that the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group remains a subject of continuous military offensive.
“There is some degree of capability remaining for the Abu Sayyaf as a threat, but we have made provisions for that already. Right now they (Abu Sayyaf) are degraded,” Padilla said.
He added that the AFP neither sees the BIFF as a threat because it is preoccupied with its opposition to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region that will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In the absence of any threat, Padilla said, the AFP is hopeful that the papal visit would be peaceful and successful.
According to him, their biggest concern at this time is crowd management.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) also on Monday belied reports that it had issued a terror alert warning in connection with the five-day visit of Pope Francis.
Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, PNP spokesman, issued the denial but confirmed that the 150,000-strong PNP went on full alert on Monday as part of the government security preparations for the five-day visit of the pontiff.
“I have talked with the chief of staff of the National Capital Regional Police Office and he denied issuing a memorandum on terror alert for the papal visit,” Mayor told reporters in a news briefing in Camp Crame, the PNP’s main headquarters, in Quezon City.