MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) has urged telecommunication networks to cut cellphone signals in Manila during the procession of the iconic Black Nazarene on Monday, in lieu of an initial plan to install signal jammers along the route of the country's biggest religious gathering.
PNP chief Director General Bato dela Rosa said they requested for the signal shutdown through the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) amid reports that extremist groups may stage terror attacks to disrupt the "translacion."
"Ini-request namin sa NTC na kung pwede, ma-direct iyung mga telcos na i-turn off muna iyung kanilang service provision sa areas na nagkakaroon ng Traslacion diyan sa Manila area," Dela Rosa told radio DZMM.
"Iyun nga lang, ang problema namin, maaapektuhan pati iyang Malacañang. Siguro naman maiintindihan ng Malacañang iyan."
Dela Rosa noted that cellphones are typically used to detonate homemade bombs similar to those used in the foiled bombing in Roxas Boulevard last November and the September explosion that killed 15 people in Davao City.
He added that the use of signal jammers will only cover mobile devices in a small area while also disabling policemen's handheld radios.
A signal shutdown, on the other hand, will secure the entire seven-kilometer procession route from Quirino Grandstand to the Quiapo Church, home of the four-century-old ebony icon of Jesus Christ.
The PNP expects a response on their request for a signal interruption on Sunday, Dela Rosa said.
Officials of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene earlier said around 15 million to 18 million guests and devotees are expected to flock to Quiapo Church from December 31, 2016 to January 10.
Last year, police said about 1.5 million people took part in the grand procession where two devotees died and 600 others were injured as they tried to touch the Black Nazarene, which many believe to have miraculous powers.
Crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, the Nazarene statue was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests in 1607, early on in Spain's 400-year colonial rule.
It is believed by some to have been partially burnt and blackened when the galleon carrying it caught fire on a voyage from Mexico, another Spanish colony at the time. - with Agence France Presse