A veteran lawmaker urged the Philippine National Police or PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines or AFP to double up security arrangements for Pope Francis’ visit that will last for five days visit next week.
Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said “ultra-tight security” is needed considering the security breaches and threats in the previous Papal visits, including the knife attack against Pope Paul VI during his 1970 visit to the Philippines and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II by suspected international terrorists during the 1995 visit.
“The Papal visits in 1970 and 1995 showed that the Philippines is not that safe as far as the popes are concerned since those who want to inflict harm on the leader of the Roman Catholic Church can go around any security measure if they are determined to do so,” Gatchalian said.
In 1970, a Filipino armed with a knife tried to attack Pope Paul VI but was prevented by Monsignor Paul Casimir Marcinkus when he parry the attack. The powerfully-built American priest who forced the assailant to the ground later became a “papal bodyguard”.
During the World Youth Day celebration on January 6, 1995 in Manila, Philippine security forces uncovered the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II after they raided the Josefa Apartments in Manila, where international terrorist Ramzi Ahmed Yousef rented a room.
Yousef was later arrested and convicted for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the 1994 foiled bombing of a Philippine Airlines flight to Japan.
The plot to kill Pope John Paul II would have been carried out on January 15, 1995, in which the suicide bomber schemed to dress up as a priest while the Pope passed in his motorcade on his way to the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City.
The assassin planned to get close to the Pope, and detonate the bomb, based on the evidence gathered from Ramzi Yousef’s seized laptop computer.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian lauded President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for being hands-on in the security arrangements for the five-day Papal visit of Pope Francis and for being honest enough to tell reporters of his dissatisfaction with such.
“That the President himself is not satisfied with the security arrangements is an indication that the PNP and AFP should double up and fine-tune their security plans for Pope Francis from the time he arrives up to the time he leaves,” said Gatchalian.
Currently, the security plans for the Pope Francis’ visit are focused in Metro Manila and Leyte, where the Pope is set to take part in activities during his stay. AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the 37,000-person security detail will be the largest contingent deployed for a visiting head of state. Some 100 military snipers would also provide cover for the Pope.
For its part, the PNP will deploy around 20,000 policemen for crowd control and other security measures. Both the PNP and AFP will be on red alert nationwide starting tomorrow, January 10. (R. Burgos)