MANILA – With the country still grappling with coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas has ordered all police commanders to coordinate with Catholic Church officials in their respective areas of responsibility to map out security and safety measures for the traditional “Simbang Gabi”.
The celebration of Simbang Gabi (pre-dawn Masses) for this year’s Christmas season would be limited to 30-percent capacity in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) like Metro Manila in accordance with the rules of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
The same guideline states that minimum health safety standard protocols must be observed, including physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
Sinas said the number of people attending the Misa De Gallo should be controlled to ensure that the guideline of the IATF-EID must be followed.
“All chiefs of police, city and provincial directors were directed to coordinate with rectors and parish priests on the Misa de Gallo, locally called Simbang Gabi, in order to impose the directive of the IATF,” Sinas told reporters during a press conference held at Camp Crame.
Sinas said he finds no problem with the Catholic Church since all parish priests have been complying with the government’s directives.
During his visit to Quiapo and Baclaran churches, Sinas said he was assured that the ITAF protocols have been strictly followed even before.
“In fact, they have tried their best to limit. Even the priests and laymen have prevented the devotees not to enter and to observe proper guidelines. We are happy for that,” Sinas said.
Based on the initial information relayed by ground commanders, Sinas said police forces across the country have never encountered any problem with regard to compliance to the IATF guidelines.
“The less intervention of the police inside and within the perimeter of the church the better. So far, our commanders down the line are implementing and coordinating,” he said.
Sinas, however, said the PNP will continue to deploy more policemen near the church in anticipation of any eventuality.
Local police units were also reminded to be on the lookout for criminal elements engaged in common street crimes such as mugging, swindling, gang wars, robbery and theft, and burglary of unattended residences.
The “Simbang Gabi” is a Filipino tradition, during which, the faithful attend pre-dawn Masses for nine days leading to Christmas Day.
Sinas also said the number of police officers has been doubled in areas of public convergence such as markets, malls, terminals, and ports where they would be tasked to conduct physical distancing patrols.
He said if violations involve improper wearing face masks and shields, violators will not be arrested but will only be reminded of the minimum health protocol against the pandemic.
“Kung walang mask bigyan ng mask, kung walang shield bigyan ng shield para po ma-impose namin (If they have no face masks and shields, give them so that we can impose it),” Sinas said.
Sinas said the PNP will also strictly enforce the “no Christmas party” policy to avoid mass gatherings.
“The directive has been issued, guidelines have been issued, pronouncement has been given, nandun na lahat yan (everything is there) and I think our commanders are doing fine in implementing it,” he said. (PNA)