AUTHORITIES advised Black Nazarene devotees to bring only hand towels and bottled water, as they downplayed concerns over a supposed terror plot to disrupt the annual procession on Monday.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada reminded devotees not to bring backpacks during the procession to avoid being confronted by security officers. Those who need to bring bags may deposit or leave them at the 10 command posts near the procession route.
“Our security organizations have not detected any terror threat related to traslacion. The possibility of such terror attack is very minimal,” the mayor said after being briefed by Manila Police District (MPD) Director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, the overall commander of the 6,000-strong combined police, military and civilian security force to be deployed during the Nazarene procession.
They will be backed up by barangay (village) officials, paramedics, firefighters, traffic aides, nongovernment organizations and members of communication groups.
Coronel advised the public to calm down and not entertain talk of terrorist activities.
“Of course, we all agree that the threat exists regarding the possibility of a terror attack in any situation, including the traslacion of the Black Nazarene,” the MPD chief said.
“But is there a strong possibility or likelihood that such attacks will happen? Based on the assessment of our intelligence community, it is very minimal,” Coronel said.
Security officials, he said, would have recommended the postponement of Monday’s procession if the terror threat was high. “In fact, that was one of the key points which led to the decision for authorities to push through with the traslacion,” he said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines-Joint Task Force NCR chief Col. Llewelyn Binasoy also said they have not detected any security threat as of Wednesday.
Authorities plan to install signal jammers along the procession route to thwart cellphone-activated bombs.
Malacañang on Saturday called on Nazarene devotees to be “careful and watchful.”
In a radio interview, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said those who will join the procession should “remain calm” and “look out for one another.”
“We continue to appreciate the faith of the Filipino people. This is an expression of the Filipino spirituality. Once more, we’ll just say please continue to be watchful and careful,” Abella said in a radio interview.
“Let us remain calm and sober and let us again look out for one another. We are careful and watchful but on the other hand, let us continue to enjoy the benefits of a folk spirituality,” he added.
The Palace official issued the reminder in the wake of the warning of Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno that the terrorist Maute Group as well as the Abu Sayyaf Group may target the procession on Monday.
Abella gave assurances that several government agencies will “work together” to secure the religious celebration.
“They, including the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health and Manila City Department of Public Services, have all laid out their plans in conjuction, in cooperation, to keep the devotees of the Black Nazarene safe,” he said.