By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Benjie B. Talisic, Morexette Marie B. Erram, Nestle L. Semilla January 20,2018 - 12:02 AM


PNP also imposed a gun ban in Metro Cebu from January 19 to 21

Be ready to go back to basics again.

Cellular phone signals may be shut down for the second year in a row to secure thousands of people who will be joining tomorrow’s culminating events for the Sinulog Festival, mainly during the Mass in honor of the Sto. Niño de Cebu and the Sinulog Grand Parade.

Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, who on Friday relinquished his post as director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), did not recommend a signal shutdown in the absence of an external threat but explained that it was their superiors in Camp Crame who requested the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut down cellular phone signals during the Sinulog festival as part of the security measures for Cebu’s grandest and biggest celebration.

“That’s the call of Camp Crame,” he said in a short interview after he turned over his post to the new director, Chief Supt. Robert Quenery.

But while the signal shutdown was still being deliberated, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa went on to order a gun ban throughout Metro Cebu from January 19 (Friday) to January 21 (Sunday) as an added measure to ensure peace and order during the Sinulog festivities.

Espino earlier said there was no need to disrupt cellular phone signals since they did not receive any threats from terrorists. However, he deemed it proper to ask Camp Crame for its position on the matter.

Espino made the request from Camp Crame before his relief on Thursday.

Espino, who is facing a probe by the Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) over allegations that he demanded at least P500,000 a week from gambling operators in the region, was relieved from his post on Wednesday and was assigned to Region 10 (Northern Mindanao).

Espino has belied the allegations. The PNP, on the other hand, said that Espino’s relief, while it came as a surprise to Cebu officials, was part of the regular reshuffling of police officers across the country.

NTC: High chance for a shutdown

Since the NTC has yet to make an announcement regarding the request for a signal shutdown from Camp Crame, the PRO-7 was tight-lipped on details of their planned security measure.

Jesus Laureno, NTC- 7 regional director, said they were not given a copy of Camp Crame’s request.

Asked if there was still enough time for their central office to order the shutdown of cellular phone signals, he said “the chances are higher.”

“When the safety of the people is concerned, and the request is made by the police, the NTC will approve it. Otherwise, it has to be deliberated thoroughly,” Laureno told Cebu Daily News on Friday.

He said telecommunication companies are prepared for a sudden shutdown of their signals since it had already been done in the past.

“The suggestion to replicate (the signal shutdown during the Sinulog Festival grand finale in 2017) was raised quite a lot of times last year, even by those coming from local government units. So, telcos (telecommunication companies) were already given a heads up about it,” Laureno explained.

Laureno said that if a signal shutdown will also be imposed this year, the disruption will not be limited only to Cebu City.

“Even if we shut down the cell sites in Cebu City, it can still receive signals from the cell sites in Mactan, Bohol or even Leyte. So what we did last year was to also shut down the signals from those areas,” he explained.

Last year, cell phone signals were shut down by NTC in some portions of the cities of Mandaue and Cebu during the Saturday fluvial procession and the solemn foot procession of the image of the Sto. Niño held on the eve of the Feast of the Child Jesus. The feast is celebrated every third Sunday of January.

The same measure was implemented in Cebu City during the Sinulog Grand Parade, which is held also on the third Sunday of January as the culminating event of the week-long festival that has been drawing thousands of people along the parade route.

In last year’s grand finale, people resorted to using landlines to make calls and land-based internet connections to open their Facebook accounts and emails. Others used mobile applications that allowed smartphones to chat without using an internet connection.

Laureno said that in last year’s Sinulog activities, NTC had to shut down the signals from about 400 cell sites in Cebu City as well as the nearby islands of Mactan, Bohol and parts of Leyte.

Security measures in place

Quenery, in an interview, said the security preparations that were planned by Espino are in place.

The new PRO-7 chief on Friday met with police officials in the region to talk about the preparations for the Sinulog.

“I’m excited because this is my first time to celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño de Cebu. We hope to secure all the people,” Quenery said.

At 2 a.m. today, the images of the Sto. Niño and the Our Lady of Guadalupe will be brought in a motorcade from the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City to the Nuestra Señora de Regla National Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City for another Mass at 4 a.m.

Afterwards, the images will be brought to the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) port in Lapu-Lapu for the 6 a.m. fluvial procession that will bring the images back to Cebu city.

After the fluvial parade, the images will be brought back to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño where, at 9 a.m., a re-enactment of the First Mass will be held, along with the re-enactment of the Christian baptism and wedding of Queen Juana and Raja Humabon.

At 1 p.m. today, a solemn procession of the Miraculous Image of the Santo Niño will start from the Basilica and will cover major city streets before the image is returned to the Basilica.

As in the previous years, the procession is expected to draw thousands of pilgrims and Sto. Niño devotees not just from Cebu but also from different provinces and even from other parts of the world.

The other major Sinulog-related events slated today would be the Sinulog Idol 2018 grand finals to be held at Plaza Independencia starting at 6 p.m. and the Sinulog fireworks competition at SM City Cebu starting at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, the Feast of the Sto. Niño, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will preside over the 6 a.m. Pontifical Mass at the Basilica.

Expected to join the religious activities is Pope Francis’ representative, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, who is the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines.

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TAGS: 19 to 21, again, Cebu‬, Gun, imposed, January, Metro, PNP, shutdown, signal

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