Manila: The interior department will investigate allegations of police abuse of authority during a religious procession last week following numerous complaints.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Eduardo Año had issued orders to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa to investigate allegations of police abuse during the annual procession venerating the Black Nazarene last January 9.
A reporter covering the religious activity for a local network had complained that his mobile phone was grabbed by an official and his files deleted.
Reporter Jun Veneracion of the GMA 7 Network news had taken to Facebook to protest that the police had gone overboard in managing the crowd during “Traslacion,” the procession for the feast of the Black Nazarene last Thursday.
He said a police official, whom he was not able to immediately identify at that time, had grabbed his mobile phone as he was recording an incident during the procession in downtown Manila.
“While taking footage on my phone of a commotion between cops and a hapless Black Nazarene devotee on Ayala Bridge in Manila, a police general suddenly darted out of nowhere and snatched my mobile unit. He quickly moved away from the scene,” Veneracion’s post said.
The video in Veneracion’s Facebook post also showed policemen pinning down to the ground an unruly devotee.
It turned out that the official who grabbed Veneracion’s phone was Police Brigadier Gen. Nolasco Bathan, head of Metro Manila’s Southern Police District, which also sent a contingent of crowd control policemen to the event.
Veneracion was able to get back his phone, but he found out that the video recording of the event had been deleted when Nolasco returned the phone to him.
Nevertheless, was able to retrieve the video file.
According to reports, Bathan had already apologised to Veneracion last Friday, but Año said nevertheless that an investigation is underway.
Aside from Veneracion, others had also criticised the manner the police handled the event and slammed the move by authorities to blockade in some parts of the procession.
This measure by the police also meant that crowd would not be able to get near and touch the “miraculous” image.
According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), this year’s “traslacion” had been the “fastest and the most orderly.” Nevertheless, it said it will assess all the complaints regarding the religious procession.
The annual ritual, held by devotees in downtown Manila while walking barefoot, is traditionally attended by huge crowds who believe in the miraculous efficacy of the blackened religious icon. This year, according to police estimates, more than 2.3 million faithful had taken part in the event.
The interior department had fielded 13,624 police officers as well as hundreds of military reservists for the event venerating the more than 400 year-old image of the suffering Christ.