By Jennifer P. Rendon
The leadership of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 appealed to the Iloilo City government to reconsider its earlier decision to junk mobile phone and internet signal shutdown for the upcoming Dinagyang Festival 2024 celebration.
Brigadier General Sidney, Western Visayas police chief, said that they are just appealing as law enforcers for the local government to reevaluate the possibility of a signal shutdown even for a short period of time during the highlights of the Dinagyang Festival 2024.
In a press conference on Dec. 10, 2024, the Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) said that the Iloilo City government will still push through with its earlier pronouncement not to adopt the signal jamming, or signal shutdown, during the entire celebration of this year’s Dinagyang.
Signal shutdowns, however, led to criticisms from ordinary Ilonggos and businesses who rely on mobile internet signals.
Instead of doing their job as peacekeepers, critics of the move said police are just taking the easy road at the expense of the public.
Joyce Clavecillas, IFFI executive director said that Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas had met with the IFFI representatives and Colonel Joeresty Coronica, Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) director, more than two weeks ago.
“Verbally, the mayor asked the PNP to do away with the signal jamming,” she said.
According to Villaflor, Coronica has indeed requested for a signal shutdown during the Dinagyang highlights but it was denied by the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
“What I did was to submit a follow-up request to the mayor and the SP to reconsider the denial. On our part, we are doing our best not to have a significant incident during the Dinagyang Festival,” Villaflor said.
He cited that Kalibo, which is celebrating the Ati-Atihan Festival, will adopt the signal shutdown.
In asking for a signal shutdown, Villaflor has cited that terrorists are known to use cell phones to detonate bombs by remote control.
As such, jamming equipment can disrupt this connection.
In the absence of jamming equipment, authorities have resorted to requesting telecommunication companies to shut down signals as part of their measures to prevent attacks with the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
He cited the Dec. 3, 2023 bombing of a Catholic mass at the Mindanao State University (MSU)’s Dimaporo Gymnasium.
Four persons were killed and 50 others were injured.
“The Dinagyang and Ati-Atihan are derivatives of Catholic activities. We’re just doing our job,” Villaflor said.
On the other hand, “We also acknowledge the negative effect of a signal shutdown to business establishments and yung iba pang may transactions sa Iloilo City. That’s why, we are asking na kahit a few hours lang,” he said.
If the appeal is denied, Villaflor said that he will notify the higher headquarters of the outcome of his request.
As this developed, Villaflor said that all intelligence communities of the different law enforcement agencies, the AFP and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) are currently monitoring if there are groups of individuals who plan to sabotage the festivities.
“Tuloy-tuloy po ang aming monitoring,” he said.