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Yecla urges Catholic leaders to exert effort to secure churches

Church workers have been told to exert effort in the maintenance of security in their respective places of worship.

“(Aside from) preaching the good news, the practice of (observing) the culture of security is expected to become part of the lifestyle (of church officials and workers),” said Col. Consolito Yecla, the commander of Task Force Davao (TFD).

Yecla yesterday met with representatives of at least 20 Catholic churches in the city at the TFD headquarters to discuss the security initiative “Tapat ko, Bantay ko,” aiming for the nine-day Simbang Gabi, which is set to start on Monday.

The TFD has been coordinating with the church sector in an effort to fight terrorists, particularly that churches are often the targets.

Aside from security guards, other church workers, including priests, nuns, convent boys, sacristan, janitors, gardeners, and others should have their share in securing their own parishes by practicing “Tapat ko, Bantay ko” initiative, Yecla said.

Church administrators, he said, should supervise the implementation of the security measure.

He said those who attended yesterday’s conference have promised to implement the scheme.

Among the particular items to be checked in the measure include backpacks, unattended baggage, motorcycles, non-transparent water containers and robe-like dresses.

Yecla said the TFD will still provide soldiers to secure the churches.

“The presence of our troops in churches… is a deterrent against the plan of the terrorists,” Yecla said.

The TFD’s plan is a supplement to the “one-entrance, one-exit” policy, which the Davao City Police Office will imposed in all churches starting the Simbang Gabi on Monday.

During yesterday’s meeting, the TFD also presented the result of the Security Survey and Inspection (SSI) conducted on 24 churches. Details of the SSI were not revealed to the media.

Earlier, some church administrators are seeking help for the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) in the churches.

The city’s San Pedro Cathedral, Davao’s ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, was twice bombed – in 1981 and in 1993.

In 1981, two grenades exploded and killed 17 churchgoers and wounded 157 others.

In the 1993 incident, three grenades exploded that killed 6 persons and wounded 151 others. Hours later, a mosque was also bombed.

Early this year, the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu was bombed. The bomb, placed in a backpack, exploded during the mass, resulting to the death of 15 churchgoers, on Jan. 27.

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