Law enforcement agencies go on alert ahead of holiday exodus
Starting today, security measures across the country are being tightened in preparation for the observance of Holy Week
Filipinos usually flock to the provinces during Holy Week to attend religious rituals, spend time with the family or for a well-deserved vacation at the beach.
Director General Raul Bacalzo, chief of the Philippine National Police
, said police units have been deployed to set up checkpoints, especially near air and sea ports.
Bacalzo said that while there is no information about a terrorist threat, uniformed officers will be deployed in malls, parks, and populated areas.
In Metro Manila, 5,000 uniformed police will go on full alert starting tomorrow.
Nicanor Bartolome, Metro Manila police chief, said around 350 bus marshals and anti-street crime operatives will also be deployed.
The Philippine coast guard
has also started tighter inspections at seaports after shipping companies reported a 50-percent increase in the number of passengers heading to the provinces.
Authorities earlier intercepted air rifles guns and deadly weapons from passengers. The coast guard said weapons were found despite repeated advisories issued by authorities.
Holy Week is an important religious festival in the Philippines. Offices, businesses and even media entities suspend operations starting on Holy Wednesday until Black Saturday.
The Holy Week or "Semana Santa" starts on Palm Sunday with Filipino Catholics going to church carrying palm fronds for the priest to bless.
Solemn street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus' Seven Last Words, and a traditional Passion play called the Senákulo are highlights on Good Friday.
In Pampanga province, processions include devotees who flagellate themselves. They are later nailed to crosses as part of their "penance" or the fulfillment of a vow.
The beginning of the end of the Holy Week celebration is at dawn on Easter Sunday with the salubong
(meeting) procession of the Resurrected Christ and the Virgin Mary.