A sea of devotees join the Black Nazarene procession . Thousands of devotees struggle to get near the image of the Black Nazarene at the start of the procession from the Quirino Grandstand to the Quiapo Church on Monday.
No major injuries were reported during Monday's Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, even as millions of people joined the procession in spite of warnings of a local terror threat.
Data from the Philippine Red Cross said that as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, a total of 569 devotees were treated for various minor injuries during the 22-hour procession, the longest in the annual Nazarene festival.
In a television interview, National Police chief Nicanor Bartolome said police personnel guarding the procession route were only able to relax at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
"Noong nakita kong pumasok na po ay nakahinga po tayo ng maluwag, at ang akin lamang nasambit ay maraming salamat at natapos din po itong ating security arrangment. At syempre nagpasalamat tayo sa Poong Maykapal sapagkat wala pong nangyaring karahasan," Bartolome told "News to Go" anchor Howie Severino.
On the eve of the festival, President Benigno Aquino III warned of a possible terrorist threat
to the traditional procession, saying several individuals associated with a terrorist group were reportedly spotted in the National Capital Region.
On Tuesday, Quiapo Church rector Msgr. Clemente Ignacio backed
the President's claim of a terror plot, saying Catholic Church officials had already received information, including the names of the supposed bombers.
About 15,000 police personnel in the NCR were placed on full alert to thwart any attacks by guarding the procession route.
Hours after the procession ended, Bartolome said the alert status has not been lowered.
"Ngayon po nagpapatuloy pa rin yung mga security forces natin. Hinahanap pa rin po yung mga nakita rito noong mga unang araw ng Enero," said Bartolome.
He added that the suspected terrorists were from Mindanao, and although they have not been arrested, they have been identified.
"Sila ay nalaman po natin na mayroon silang link doon sa mga iba't-ibang grupo na may ginagawang karahasan sa Mindanao. Kaya't minabuti nating bantayan silang mabuti, at saka sabi ko nga hanggang ngayon, patuloy pa rin silang hinahanap," he said.
Authorities failed to recover evidence in raids
conducted on suspected terrorist safe houses before the government warning. Defense chief Voltaine Gazmin said his department received reports that the terrorists assembled a bomb in Metro Manila, but no trace of explosives was found in the suspected safe houses.
"Hindi pa po sila arestado, doon po sa mga vinerify natin na hideouts nila, safehouse nila, ay wala po sila doon noong dumating yung ating mga tauhan. Nevertheless, mahalaga po dito na sila ay identified at patuloy ang paghahanap sa kanila," said Bartolome.
On Monday, telecommunication firms jammed cellphone signals in Manila, following a request from Malacañang. The temporary signal loss was explained as part of safety measures in the interest of national security
Bartolome said that although some were inconvenienced, the safety of the general public was prioritized.
"Ang mahalaga dito, nakapaghanda ang lahat at nagkaroon man ng kaunting inconvenience siguro sa ibang mga tao, mas mahalaga po dito yung mas malaking kapakanan ng mas maraming tao natin doon sa naturang piyesta," he said.
Bartolome affirmed that the signal jamming was done to prevent terrorists from using cellphones to trigger explosions. "Yung mga huling pangyayari, celphone ang ginagamit sa pag trigger ng explosion. Marami na pong insidente, hindi lamang po dito sa atin, pati sa ibang bansa. Ang threat po hindi lamang dito sa Pilipinas, buong mundo na po malakas ang threat," he said.
He urged the public to remain vigilant and to immeidately report suspicious activity to authorities. "Ang banta po ng mga ganitong klase ng tao ay walang pinipili. Nakikita naman natin ang nangyayari sa buong mundo ngayon. Tayo ay mas lucky sapagkat even if meron tayong nakikitang ganitong opportunnity, ay hindi po nila natutuloy sapagkat nadidisrupt po ito," he said. — Carmela Lapeña/RSJ, GMA News