THERE is no security threat in the staging of this year’s feast of the Black Nazarene, Malacañang and the military said on Wednesday.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. assured devotees that the government was prepared and has implemented measures to ensure public safety during the procession on January 9.
“Well, I don’t think there’s any extraordinary threat. We will exercise the same kind of diligence that we have done in the past,” Roque told reporters.
“This is already the second Nazareno for this administration and we know how to maintain peace and order in the Nazareno festivities,” he added.
Millions of Catholic devotees from different parts of the country will participate in the procession and other activities during the annual Black Nazarene Feast.
Devotees will walk barefoot as the life-size image of Jesus Christ carrying a cross is paraded on the streets of Manila up to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.
Participants often try to touch Jesus’ image, which is believed to be miraculous, with white towels or with their hands.
The theme of this year’s event is based on a Bible verse from the book of Corinthians: “Pag-ibig ang buklod ng ganap na pagkakaisa (Love binds us in the fullness of unity).”
The administration of Quiapo Church on Monday said 18 million devotees were expected to flood the streets of Manila during the procession or the Traslacion from Quirno Grandstand to the Quiapo Church basilica.
500 soldiers, 1,300 MMDA men
The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday said it would send 500 soldiers to augment the police force and help secure the Black Nazarene feast.
Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, newly appointed commander of the military’s Joint Task Force in the National Capital Region, said the military has always considered the possibility of a terrorist attack on the yearly feast.
“So far, as I assumed, I have studied updates and situations, we always consider the possibility of terrorism,” Arrojado told reporters in an interview at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
But Arrojado reiterated that there were no terror threats to the Black Nazarene feast.
Also on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it would deploy some 1,300 personnel to help secure next week’s feast.
There will also be a walkthrough along the route of the procession to ensure the safety of the millions expected to attend the event.
Officials of the Manila Police District (MPD) and Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) on Wednesday inspected the route of the annual procession.
MPD Director Joel Coronel and Monsignor Hernando “Ding” Coronel, rector of Quiapo Church, led the inspection from Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to P. Burgos Street.
This year’s Traslacion will take a different route. Instead of the eastbound lane of P. Burgos and Lagusnilad, the procession will take the westbound lane of P. Burgos.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE, DEMPSEY REYES, JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ AND RAADEE S. SAUSA