Jaro fiesta was peaceful – PNP

FAITH Devotees of Our Lady of Candles say their prayer and petitions, Feb. 1, 2019, at Jaro Cathedral where the image of the Jaro patroness is enshrined. (Ricky D. Alejo)

AMID reports of alleged terror threats, the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) said the celebration of Jaro fiesta or the Feast of Our Lady of Candles was relatively peaceful.

Senior Superintendent Martin Defensor, Jr., Iloilo City police chief, said no major incident happened during the entire celebration on February 2.

“It was generally peaceful and orderly,” he said, as he credited the dedication of police officers and other force multipliers.

The ICPO handled the event on its own, as there was no augmentation from other police offices.

The ICPO only pulled out some personnel from other police stations and units to support Iloilo City Police Station 3 in Jaro.

Defensor said they deployed 350 cops who were augmented by personnel from the Transportation Management and Traffic Regulation Office, and other peacekeeping volunteer groups.

While it was generally peaceful, Defensor noted that minor incidents tainted the celebration.

He said that the police were able to arrest five suspected pickpockets.

Two of the suspects are a couple from Antique who tried to steal from a devotee inside the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral.

The other three suspects are from Bacolod City who victimized another churchgoer while at the cathedral’s premises.

Meanwhile, despite the earlier announcement of ICPO against banning of backpacks and large bags inside the cathedral and Jaro plaza, several persons were still caught unaware.

They were forced to leave their bags at Ken side of the entrance, as they made their way to the plaza and cathedral.

At around 7:25 p.m., a 36-year-old man was held after he was caught with a buckle knife.

Raymundo Gardose, a resident of Block 5, Barangay Sinikway, Lapuz, Iloilo City, was about to enter Jaro Plaza with some friends when he was frisked and yielded the buckle knife.

He was detained for violation of Commission on Elections gun ban and City Ordinance Number 138.

Before the fiesta celebration, the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) said ICPO will impose stricter security measures during the Jaro Fiesta.

Aside from backspaces and large bags, it is also prohibited to being barbecue sticks and other pointed or sharp items, drinks in glass bottles, explosives, and other deadly weapons.

ICPO also established Pedestrian Screening to ensure that devotees and other churchgoers entering the cathedral and the plaza are free from any prohibited items.

Further, police personnel also conducted random frisking in areas outside the plaza.

A few days ago, though, there were unverified reports of the alleged presence of terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Iloilo City.

But the PRO-6 labeled the report as fake news.

The reports, that went viral over SMS or text messaging and different social media platforms, claimed that ISIS members are allegedly planning to launch attacks in the metropolis.

One of the messages claimed that ISIS members are already in Iloilo City and might plan to sow terror, in time for the Jaro fiesta.

But PRO-6 said there’s no verified report on such information.