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Gov’t: Black Nazarene feast won’t be cancelled

The country’s commemoration of the Black Nazarene feast will push through as scheduled despite the security threats coming from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Groups.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said the government would not seek the cancellation of religious activity on January 9 but assured the police and military have been mobilized to ensure the safety of the devotees.

“I do not think the government will advise for the cancellation of this traditional practice which is long been done since how many years ago so we will just try our best to really keep our people safe,” Sueno said in a Palace press briefing.

“That is why we have the PNP (Philippine National Police), the military, and other armed groups in our government to really help contain, or maintain peace and order,” he added.

Sueno said the security forces have been placed on “full alert” to quell threats from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf members, who he claimed are now possibly in Metro Manila.

He likewise warned of possible retaliatory attacks following the killing of the leader of the Ansar Al-Khalifah Philippines Socsargen in Sarangani. “The group is somehow rumored to be connected to the ISIS group. Baka mag retaliate, ‘yun ang problema natin, ‘yung retaliation. That’s why we have to double, triple our preparations sa security,” he said.

“We are moving everything, lahat ng preparations ginagawa na natin. We are not leaving anything to chance. As long as we know that there is a threat, we consider it big already that’s why our preparations our also big,” he added.

Despite the security threats, the DILG secretary is hopeful that nothing untoward will happen during the religious activity in Metro Manila. “God loves the Philippines so much,” he said, believing the nation will be placed under Divine protection.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed that intelligence community has warned of “possible disturbances” during the Black Nazarene feast.

Abella, however, assured several government agencies would “work together” to secure the religious celebration on January 9.

“They include 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 which have all laid out their plans in conjunction, in cooperation, to keep the devotees of the Black Nazarene safe,” Abella said.

Meanwhile, it’s all systems go for the “Traslacion” or Black Nazarene procession on Monday, Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel said yesterday.

“We are 99.99 percent ready. ‘Yung .01 percent, ibinibigay ko na sa Panginoon,” Coronel said during the last of the series of press briefings for this year’s Traslacion.

About 4,200 policemen and 650 soldiers will be deployed to ensure the security of the devotees.

Coronel said that some policemen and soldiers will be deployed for the pre-Traslacion activities.

Tomorrow, some 20,000 devotees are expected to take part in the procession of replicas of the Black Nazarene from 2 p.m. until about 10 p.m.

Thousands of devotees are also expected to flock to the Quirino Grandstand in Manila for the “Pahalik” on Sunday.

Coronel said they will conduct intensified anti-criminality operations within the vicinity of the procession route – Intramuros, Ermita, Malate, Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Quiapo.

He added that no liquor ban will be implemented but there will be an aggressive police operation against drinking in public.

“We would like to show the people that the procession is a solemn rite. It’s a religious affair. Di natin papayagan na may mga lasing na nanggugulo like in previous years,” he said. “We will start this tonight para mapakita natin na kung dadalo ay dapat mananalangin.”

National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde said he has recommended the 48-hour suspension of the permit to carry firearms in Manila to Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald M. dela Rosa.

The proposed suspension, he said, will be from January 8, 8 a.m., to January 10, 8 a.m.

Albayalde said they have not received threats but have maintained the high security threat level in Metro Manila.

“We maintained our full alert status to avoid spillover or retaliatory acts because there are on-going offensives against threat groups in different parts of Mindanao,” he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling and Jaimie Rose A. Aberia)