MANILA, Philippines - Authorities lowered the alert status in Metro Manila yesterday, days after Malacañang announced the presence of suspected terrorists planning to attack the annual procession of the Black Nazarene last Monday.
Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the PNP had downgraded the alert from full to heightened status in Metro Manila.
The PNP has shifted its focus on securing the Senate at the start of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona on Monday.
The military, for its part, said it would closely monitor the impeachment trial and support the PNP in maintaining order should the need arise.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) would provide additional security for the trial.
Burgos said the NCRCom’s Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) is ready for deployment upon request from its counterpart in the police, the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO).
“On Monday, we will monitor, and the AFP through the NCRCom is ready to provide security augmentation and support if requested by the PNP,” Burgos said.
Burgos refused to reveal the exact number of troops that would be committed for deployment in the impeachment trial.
Cruz said the PNP would deploy some 500 uniformed policemen to secure the Senate building on Monday.
The additional policemen would come from the PNP-Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) and the NCRPO.
Cruz added K-9 units, bomb disposal personnel and a Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) contingent will be fielded as well as elements of the elite Special Action Force (SAF).
Although the alert status was downgraded, Cruz was quick to clarify that police operatives have further intensified efforts in tracking down the alleged terrorists spotted in Metro Manila that planned the attack on the Black Nazarene procession last Monday.
“Even if they go out of Metro Manila we will still pursue them,” Cruz said. “Tracker teams are continuously searching for suspected terrorists even as raids in alleged safehouses yield negative and no arrests have been made at this time.”
Cruz said the rest of Luzon and Visayas is also on heightened alert while Mindanao remains on full alert.
Cruz said PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome allowed the police regional offices to assess the security situation in their areas to increase or downgrade the alert level.
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the government has been trying to improve security measures to ensure the safety of the general public, similar to the measures taken during the Feast of the Black Nazarene.
Thousands of policemen, backed by hundreds of army troops, had secured the five-kilometer procession route for the charred wooden Black Nazarene statue from seaside Rizal Park to Quiapo Church last Monday.
Air Force helicopters stood by and cell phone service was blocked in procession areas to prevent its use to trigger bombs. The procession ended after 22 hours.
The elaborate security measure was made after President Aquino revealed a plot to attack the annual religious procession.
Aquino’s warning sparked one of the most elaborate security deployments for an event in Metro Manila in recent years.
With the simmering political situation ahead of the impeachment trial on Monday, authorities are not taking chances.
Authorities have prepared security measures following announcements from several groups to hold protest actions on Monday at the start of the impeachment trial.
The groups also include supporters of Corona that are also expected to rally at the Senate. – Jaime Laude - By Cecille Suerte Felipe