TACLOBAN CITY: The 1,500 Bicol Police contingent to the Papal security group here employed its rigid training primed for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in safeguarding the Pope and the thousands of Catholic pilgrims.
The augmentation forces from both the Bicol and West Visayas regions served as foot soldiers during the one-day visit of Pope Francis in Tacloban and Palo, Leyte. The Pontiff visited Leyte to talk with the victims and survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan).
Senior Supt. Romulo Esteban, who headed the Bicol contingent, made sure that the police outposts are manned 24 hours before and during the Pope’s visit.
He also discussed and briefed the police in East Visayas on the protocols that will have to be observed when the Papal security and the Presidential Security Group are present.
He also found that the East Visayas police was not that prepared when handling large crowds. More than one million pilgrims and visitors went to Tacloban to see the Pope and participate in the mass he celebrated at the Tacloban airport on Jan. 17.
Esteban said he was surprised to see that the outposts were unmanned two days before Pope Francis was to arrive in Tacloban. He stressed that the local police should be present to guide both the security augmentation force and the throng of pilgrims that needed direction.
It also appeared that the rooms assigned as sleeping units for the security forces were either closed or were still used by students when the policemen from Luzon arrived, giving the police a challenge in recharging their tired bodies.
Many of the troops arrived two days before the Papal visit in Tacloban. The policemen from Region 2, led by Senior Supt. Agustin Tumangin, had to endure three days of land and sea travel before they could get to their designated point in Leyte province.
Close to 5,000 cops from Regions 2, 3, 4-A, 5, 6, 7 and the Caraga formed part of the 25,000 PNP personnel who provided operational support to the Presidential Security Group, which provided close-in security to the Pope and his entourage.