Manila: Places of worship in the Philippines have been placed on high security alert, in the aftermath of devastating attacks that killed civilians and troops tasked to secure them.
In Manila as well as in Davao City, Catholic churches have bolstered security as part of “target hardening” measures, in the aftermath of the devastating bombing of the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu. The attack, which occurred on January 21 while parishioners were holding Sunday mass, killed 21 people and injured nearly a hundred.
At the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in downtown Quiapo in Manila and outside the Baclaran Church in Pasay City, soldiers carrying long firearms stood guard outside the churches.
In south eastern Philippines, the Archdiocese of Davao released a list of items prohibited inside churches.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, in a circular issued on January 29, said boxes were among the many items included on the list.
Knapsacks, backpacks, cartons, and the likes are also banned inside parish churches and chapels.
“Only small purses and the like are allowed,” the circular said.
Pope Francis had earlier condemned the violence that “causes more mourning in the Christian community.”
Metro Manila’s major commuter train services, the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) have banned bottled drinks in all of their train stations, as part of heightened security measures following the recent bombing incident in Jolo, Sulu.
In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) — MRT-3 said this is in compliance with the directive of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ban bottled drinks inside the railway stations, including the LRT system, to prevent the entry of hazardous chemicals contained in plastic bottles that can cause danger to the public.
“We advise our commuters not to bring bottled drinks, and liquids inside MRT-3 stations as these can be used as ‘liquid bombs’,” the DOTr-MRT-3 said.
The PNP has placed the entire Metro Manila on heightened alert following the twin blasts in Jolo and after a grenade explosion in Zamboanga City that killed two Muslim religious leaders.
Haj Sattal Bato and Rex Habil, both 46-years-old, died in an explosion inside a masjid in the village of Talon-Talon in Zamboanga City last January 30.
The blast also injured four other Muslim preachers or “Tabligs” inside the masjid.
Religious leaders had been calling for sobriety in the wake of the two incidents.
A report by Mindanews said Aleem Jamal S. Munib, executive director of the Madrasah Comprehensive Development and Promotions Programme, and Aleem Muhmaad Y. Pasigan, the Grand Mufti in Davao Region have also issued guidelines to ensure security inside the mosques.
Among the measures prescribed is a ban on sleeping inside the houses of worship.
Authorities said extremist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf are trying to foment sectarian conflict with the latest terror attacks.
Among the most devastating similar terror attacks in the Philippines were those that took place on December 30, 2000 when blasts taking place one after the other, five locations in Metro Manila including the LRT.
A total 22 people were killed and 120 others were injured the attacks that took place while the country was observing a public holiday honouring the National Hero Jose Rizal.