By Kier Edison C. Belleza
Cebu City – With less than a month before Sinulog, the Augustinian priests of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño said they are backing the move to use signal jammers during the festival’s religious and cultural activities.
Fr. Ric Anthony Reyes, Fiesta Señor 2018 secretary, said they like the idea since it would ensure the safety of the millions who are expected to attend Sinulog.
Reyes said using signal jammers will also accentuate the solemnity of the festival, because the faithful can focus more on praying with the mobile phone service disrupted.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, in a separate interview Wednesday, refused to comment on the move but said “we are aware that people with bad intentions can use mobile phones to perpetrate crime… a huge activity like the Sinulog could be an avenue for them to commit crime.”
Palma said he will leave the final decision on the signal jammers to the authorities, who he said are more knowledgeable when it comes to security matters.
Mayor Tomas Osmeña had suggested asking the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut down cellular sites as part of security measures during the festival.
“All we can do is tell the people to be prepared to survive without the cell phone,” he said in an earlier statement.
Osmeña said the plan was considered to prevent cellphones from being used by terrorists to detonate explosives.
“I’m really terrified because the terrorists were badly hurt in Marawi and they have every motivation to retaliate,” Osmeña said, referencing the defeat of Islamist extremists who had laid siege on Marawi City.
Sinulog attracts more than two million people annually.
NTC approved the cut-off of network services in parts of the cities of Cebu and Mandaue for this year’s Sinulog festival and some of the activities of the Fiesta Señor, which prompted people to communicate via landlines and mobile applications that enabled chatting even without Internet connection.
NTC-Central Visayas Director Jesus Laureno said that all requests to shut down cellular sites from telecommunication companies will be handled by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Sr. Supt. Renato Dugan, spokesperson of the Central Visayas police, said they welcome the suggestion to shut down mobile phone services.
“We did that last January (2017), and it turned out to be good,” he said in an earlier statement.
Dugan said the police wants to hear what the public has to say, “but on the part of the PNP, our priority is the safety of the public. Regardless of everything, our emphasis is always the security.”
He said the PNP has yet to decide on whether to request the NTC to jam mobile phone signals during Sinulog.