Millions of Filipinos defy terror warning

2012-01-09 17:18

Manila - Millions of Roman Catholic devotees paraded with a statue of Christ through the Philippine capital under a massive police cordon on Monday after the president warned that terrorists might target the raucous annual procession.

The government did not have specific intelligence on a terrorist plot. Still, about 15 000 police, backed by hundreds of army troops, secured the 5km procession route for the charred wooden Black Nazarene statue from seaside Rizal Park to a popular church in Manila's congested Quiapo district.

Air force helicopters stood by and cellphone service was blocked in procession areas to prevent its use to trigger bombs. Despite the president's warning, huge crowds of devotees wearing maroon shirts surged near the statue, believed to have healing powers.

"It's a choice between faith and fear," said Rodolfo Uy, 45, a polio victim whose 12-year-old son pushed him on a wheelchair to see the Black Nazarene. "I got nervous last night when I heard the news but my devotion was stronger."

Uy said he prayed for metal braces so he could walk and work again for his children.

President Benigno Aquino III announced in a hastily called news conference on Sunday that several terrorists had been reported in the capital with plans to disrupt the procession, but that the threat was not high enough to cancel the procession and that police would work to keep it safe.

Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the threat, involving possible bombings by two groups of Muslim militants from the country's volatile south, prompted police to raid several suspected terrorist hideouts in the Manila area, but without any results.

Gazmin defended Aquino's decision to announce the threat on the eve of the procession despite the absence of a specific threat, saying it underscored the president's concern for public safety and ratcheted up massive security preparations.

Rather safe

Aquino's warning sparked one of the most elaborate security deployments for an event in the capital in recent years, but Gazmin dismissed criticisms of a security overkill.

"It's OK if it can be described as overreacting," Gazmin said. "But at least we won't be sorry."

The event got under way with a morning Mass by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle at Rizal Park attended by about 3 million mostly barefoot devotees. The crowd was expected to swell to 9 million later in the day, police said.

After the Mass, where prayers were offered for victims of recent deadly floods, organisers brought the life-size Black Nazarene statue down from a stage to a carriage for a procession expected to last well into the night.

Dozens were hurt when a crowd surged forward to try to touch, kiss and dab their towels on the statue, toppling iron railings and pinning other devotees. The Red Cross said it treated more than 250 people with bruises and other minor injuries throughout the day, including some from the morning melee.

The carriage's wheels later broke, slowing the procession. Authorities said the parade might be cut short as it dragged on into the night.

In addition to hundreds of army troops, the military said it deployed 19 teams of explosive experts, 33 units with bomb-sniffing dogs, crowd-control squads and ambulances. It put a 500-member rapid reaction force and three helicopters on standby.

There were suspicions that attackers might come from two radical Muslim groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, which is on a US list of terrorist organisations for deadly bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.

The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene.

Some believe the statue's survival of fires and earthquakes through the centuries and intense bombings during World War II is a testament to its powers.

The Philippines is Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation.


- AP
Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  philippines  |  religion
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!

Who would have guessed the world’s least visited country would have such spectacular beaches?

 
 

I love summer.24

LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014
10 of the strangest Christmas traditions around the world
2014's best drone videos

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Any chance to explore the distant shores of things yet to be found will fascinate you. The challenge is dealing with the issues...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.