Aquino admits pontiff vulnerable to attacks
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Friday admitted that planning the task of securing Pope Francis has given the security teams “nightmares,” saying deployment of tens of thousands of troops may not be enough to control a crowd of six million in case any chaos breaks out.
President Aquino reported that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who holds daily meetings with all those involved in the preparations for the pontiff’s visit, finds the job grueling.
“You know, I’m obsessive . . . but not as [much as Ochoa]who conducts meetings everyday. He told me he’s been having nightmares thinking about this [papal visit]. It is our job to think of worst-case scenarios and to put it to test to address such possibility,” Aquino said.
According to him, their concern grew because of the Paris shooting this week where 12 people were killed by armed militants.
Similar incidents in Canada and Australia and in Shanghai, China, added to their anxiety, the President said.
“I’d like to stress that the Pope is not our only obligation. So we are preparing for whatever problem that may arise,” he added.
Based on “instructive videos” that they have seen so far, Aquino noted that the Pope may be particularly vulnerable to an attack along roads, particularly when huge crowds throng the papal convoy.
“As the convoy nears, the entire perimeter may break loose and people may get hurt. This is also the chance when terrorists may come near the Pope but we will not allow that,” the President said, citing the instructional videos shown to them.
Aquino said the Palace communication group will publicize these videos beginning on Monday to help educate the public on how to properly move during the procession and Mass to be officiated by Pope Francis to avoid commotion and the outbreak of violence.
The President added that a part of the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta (Rizal Park) will be left vacant to absorb the volume of people in case of a stampede.
“There will be at least 25,000 members of the police and the military who will take care of the Pope’s security. But 25,000 [is paltry]to the six million devotees. The government cannot do it alone. I will reiterate the message: We have coordinated with the Church, different sectors that once we work together on this, we will achieve our objective of having a peaceful and meaningful visit of the Holy Pope,” Aquino said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) will enforce a gun ban in all areas where Pope Francis will be visiting next week.
These areas include the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue, Manila; Malacañang;
Manila Cathedral; SM Arena, Mall of Asia, Pasay City, University of Santo Tomas; Quirino Grandstand; Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte.
The PNP has directed regional commanders in Metro Manila and Eastern Visayas to “strictly observe and implement certain provisions of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Law and its Implementing Rules and Regulations,” particularly the ban on the bringing of firearms “inside places of worship, amusement places and all other commercial or public establishments.”
The provision will cover all gun holders including members of the police, military and other law enforcement agencies.
With Anthony Vargas