Police, military search Islamic Center in Quiapo, Bicutan jail
Police and military have tightened security preparations for the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Saturday by two search operations at the Islamic Center in Quiapo and undertake search procedures at Bicutan jail.
On Sunday, police will start implementing a 48-hour ban for Manila residents not to carry firearms outside their homes. The temporary gun ban starts at 8 am of January 8 until 8 am of January 10, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said on Thursday there was a “possible terror threat” from the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Brothers Group. PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa said based on Sueno’s statement and the death of the leader of Ansar Al-Khilafa Philippines, police will augment security in Manila.
Colonel Vic Tomas, deputy commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTFNCR), said the military will support the PNP in implementing the temporary gun ban in Manila.
"We just follow the PNP directive, normally we do that (apprehend violators) always in the presence of the PNP, because we do not have police power, though we have the mandate under the proclamation 55 still the procedure, the rules of engagement still with the PNP," Tomas said.
In a television interview, Inspector John Guiagui, commander of the Police Community Precinct in Plaza Miranda, said around 800 police are deployed in Manila.
A procession began Saturday after the noon mass at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and is expected to end around 9 pm. On Sunday, kissing and touching of the image will start at Quirino Grandstand as soon as the Black Nazarene has been transferred from Quiapo Church.
"Right now we have more than 600 uniformed PNP personnel here at Plaza Miranda, before the start of the procession about 200 more personnel will be strategically distributed along the road so as to cover the procession," Tomas said.
"They will be augmented by the medical teams from the volunteers, Department of Health and city government of Manila, now we were augmented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by the JTFNCR with the K9, EOD team so we can say that all were in placed for security of this day," he added.
Guiagui said government authorities began an search operation at Islamic center at the vicinity of Carlos Palanca St. in Quiapo early Saturday morning.
A policeman at the Manila Police Station 8 confirmed that around 100 people were invited by the police for questioning but an unspecified number remained at the Manila Police District (MPD).
Guiagui said the operation in the area is part of security preparation for celebrating the feast of the Black Nazarene.
"It is just part of the anti criminality campaign as part of the security preparation of the MPD for the upcoming festivities and it is not only limited to having a criminality campaign at Islamic area it also includes all inns, apartels and hotels were in we have to check all that were coming in and out that will check in of the feast of the Black Nazarene," he said.
"Since last week we have been doing Oplan Sita, check point and other anti criminality campaign in certain location and certain area not only the Islamic center, so what happen a while ago is just the preparation of the MPD," he added.
In a radio interview, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director, Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, said another operation as part of "Oplan Galugad" was done in Bicutan Jail around 2:30 pm.
Albayalde said the operation is also based on the instruction of Sueno.
"We conduct Oplan Galudad (jail search) first because of the directive of SILG, this is also part of target hardening measures with regards to the celebration of the traslacion," he said.
Albayalde said the search was only made at the detention cells of the high-profile inmates who are members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Moro Islamic Liberation Figthers (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MILF). Robina Asido/DMS