MORE than a million barefooted devotees gathered yesterday a bid to touch a centuries-old icon of the Black Nazarene, a frenzied annual event that is one of the world’s biggest displays of Catholic devotion.
As of this writing, the Philippine National Police said it has not recorded any untoward incident in the ongoing Black Nazarene procession. However, an abandoned bag caused tension among devotees after it was left in front of the Sta. Cruz Church on Ronquillo Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila, and caused tension and stirred suspicions that it contained a bomb.
The bag was found at around 9 a.m. by a concerned citizen and immediately reported the matter to the Explosive and Ordnance Division (EOD) of the Manila Police District (MPD).
An x-ray was conducted on the bag which was found to contain personal items, among them a ‘Poong Nazareno’ t-shirt. The bag reportedly belonged to a devotee from Samar who went to a comfort room.
PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa said security was very tight in the area with police banning the use of drones and carrying of backpacks, umbrellas, firearms, bladed and other deadly weapons.
Smart Communications, Inc. also shut down Smart, TNT and Sun mobile phone services along the Black Nazarene’s procession route in Manila over security concerns.
He said they have to be prepared just in case, thus the massive security preparations which was prompted by the series of counter-terror operations in Mindanao last week which led in the killing of Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines leader Mohammad Jaafar Maguid alias ‘Tokboy and a foreign bomb expert identified only as Abu Naila during separate operations in Sarangani province.
“We expect them to launch retaliatory attacks, thus the very strict security,” he said.