PNP: Muslim 'johore' prayer gathering no cause for alarm

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) acting provincial director for Negros Oriental allayed fears by some quarters over the staging of a Muslim "johoor" or "johore," a prayer meeting and seminar, in Dauin town.

Senior Superintendent Edwin Portento, acting provincial PNP director, confirmed Wednesday, October 25, that the Negros Oriental Federation of Muslim Communities would host the johore in a privately-owned venue in the village of Maayong Tubig in Dauin on October 26-27.

Some 300 Muslim "tablighs" or scholars from all over the Philippines, as well as about 200 local participants, are expected to converge at the venue owned by Sultan Tate, the federation president, in Dauin.

Portento assured the public that tight security measures are in place to ensure the safety of everyone, especially with the ongoing Unigames in Dumaguete City.

Portento’s assurance came as some quarters had raised concerns over the “johore,” noting that a similar activity was held in Marawi City shortly before the siege, and reports later said that the gathering was penetrated by “Isis members.”

But the provincial police director said the Islamic prayer meeting was under close monitoring and its organizers had in fact coordinated with the authorities when the activity was still on the drawing board as an act of transparency.

“We don’t want to offend them. They have the right to freedom of assembly and we have to respect that,” he said.

According to Portento, while plans were not yet final on the Islamic gathering in Dauin, the PNP had already mapped out a security contingency plan, in coordination with other security forces, such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to include the Army and Navy, the Coast Guard, the intelligence community and the provincial Joint Task Force Leon Kilat.

To ensure everyone’s safety, the profiles of the participants had been forwarded to higher headquarters for verification, he said.

Also, strict measures are in place, such as the confinement of the participants to the venue for the duration of the prayer meeting, the issuance of identification cards for the activity, detailed pick-up and drop-off of participants from their port of entry, such as the airport, seaport and bus terminals to the venue and back, and the assurance from organizers that not one of them would be billeted at a hotel, he added.

After all, this is a prayer meeting and therefore they are expected to be at the activity venue rather than at hotels, Portento said.

He warned that those found staying at hotels and resorts will be subjected to questioning by the police.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has also been informed about the Muslim prayer gathering, while hotels and resorts have been asked to report the presence of suspicious persons during the scheduled “johore.”

Some participants have arrived in Dumaguete as early as October 25, Portento said.

The activity, he noted, is open to those who would like to attend and experience the Muslim prayer meeting.

In fact, space will be provided for those from other religions who are welcome to attend the “johore.”

Major General Jon Aying, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, has been invited to speak as a guest lecturer on anti-radicalism. Portento said he is also attending.

As to the presence of foreign guest lecturers in the prayer meeting/seminar, Portento said the organizers have not submitted any names yet although they earlier mentioned that possibility.

The only thing that worries the PNP is if the weather turns bad, just like last week when heavy rains triggered massive flooding in Dumaguete and elsewhere, because they will have to pull out their personnel to respond to distress calls, Portento added. (PNA)
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