With the yearly “Simbang Gabi” set to start at dawn on Friday, the head of the National Capital Region Police District Office (NCRPO) has ordered the five district directors to tighten security around churches and residential areas as part of security preparations for “Ligtas Paskuhan 2022,” and ensure public security and safety during the Yuletide season.
The five districts covered by the NCRPO are the Manila Police District (MPD), Quezon City Police District (QCPD), Northern Police District (NPD), Southern Police District (SPD), and Eastern Police District (EPD).
The traditional nine-day dawn masses (Simbang Gabi) start on December 16 and end on December 24, or Christmas Eve. NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Jonnel Estomo instructed the implementation of maximum police visibility around churches in Metro Manila amid the expected influx of people going to churches to attend Simbang Gabi or “Misa de Gallo.”
“This is an important Filipino tradition that we cannot afford to miss. We don’t have many frets on our security preparation and implementation due to our existing S.A.F.E. NCRPO strategy where our personnel are wide-awake, even during the unholy hours of the day. We are prepared to address any security issue that can possibly spoil this event,” Estomo said on Wednesday in a news statement, adding that his order is in line with the Philippine National Police’s “Ligtas Paskuhan 2022” program.
He said more than 13,000 personnel were deployed in different areas in the metropolis, including places of worship, malls, public markets, major thoroughfares, transportation hubs/terminals, and other places of convergence, which started last December 1 to cover various aspects of the police operation, heightened police presence and respond to other necessary measures for an orderly, peaceful, and safe Yuletide season.
Police Assistance Desks (PADs) were also established near the church entrances for immediate attention to any emergency and untoward incident.
Estomo reminded Metro Manila cops to maximize their presence in the field to prevent crime and terrorism. And to continue to collaborate and open their communication for better coordination.
“Despite everything we have been through this year, let’s not forget to thank God for all the blessings He has given us. In the coming year, may we continue to be the channel of the blessing of peace by keeping the people of Metro Manila safe and secure against any form of criminality and injustice,” said Estomo.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. ordered full alert status on Friday coinciding with the start of Simbang Gabi, to ensure the safety of people during the Christmas season.
“Full alert will start on Friday, coinciding with the opening of Simbang Gabi. I have directed our policemen to be visible in churches for the Simbang Gabi. They should be visible so that if police response is needed by our countrymen, they are ready…They should be ready, on call, anytime,” Azurin told reporters at the PNP national headquarters at Camp Crame.
Azurin said he has already given instructions to police units to beef up police presence in areas where people frequent, including malls.
Azurin said policemen are allowed to go on Christmas break but said they should be on call to report for duty in their respective areas if their services are needed.
“We will require our personnel, where they are on vacation, to report their presence to the nearest police station so if police response or additional police assistance is needed in that area, they can help,” the country’s top cop said.
For her part, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said police visibility will not only be increased in churches but also in malls and restaurants where people may go after attending Simbang Gabi.
“Our chief PNP wants enough number of [police] personnel who will be assigned and doing patrol in the vicinity of churches,” said Fajardo.
“After Simbang Gabi, our countrymen may go to malls, go to restaurants, we will double our presence there,” she added.
Fajardo said more policemen will be deployed in transport terminals due to the anticipated increase of people availing of public transportation during the season.
Fajardo said the PNP has not monitored “any serious or credible threat” to disrupt the celebration of the Yuletide season.
“But of course, we are not going to be complacent,” said Fajardo, adding that police units will be ready to respond to any threat.