WHEN he had the chance to thank all who helped with preparations for the weeklong International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma took the time to apologize.
He said he was sorry that people have had to adjust to several road closures during the past week, when IEC delegates went to and from the main congress venue or joined massive events outdoors, like the Visita Iglesia last Thursday and a mass and procession the night after.
“I’m sorry, and thank you for understanding,” the archbishop said.
Some one million people, including the IEC delegates, gathered for the closing mass, nearly filling a 26-hectare area in Cebu City’s South Road Properties (SRP).
The mass proceeded peacefully, said Senior Supt. Benjamin Santos, officer-in-charge of the Cebu City Police Office, who added there were no major incidents before, during and after the mass.
As expected, traffic around the mass venue was heavy once the event ended, as hundreds of thousands walked from the SRP to Mambaling and toward Plaza Independencia.
Despite this, however, the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) believed they were able to “successfully manage” it, with the aid of 200 traffic enforcers deployed in the area.
“The traffic was definitely heavy mostly because of the sheer number of private vehicles but the traffic was moving,” said CCTO department head Atty. Rafael Yap.
Aside from the 200 traffic enforcers, CCTO also fielded 200 parking aides and other personnel to help supervise the traffic.
At least 2,461 police officers secured the venue, screening participants at the entrance or standing on top of plastic chairs for a better view of the crowd as it kept growing.
At 1 p.m., Santos said, the police noticed only 3,000 persons in the venue, but the crowd more than doubled to 5,000 an hour later.
“When the mass started, many people were still coming,” he said.
So many wanted to go near the area where the mass was held, that a perimeter fence made of bamboo was destroyed.
Outside the venue, a 31-year-old man was arrested for allegedly pretending to be a police officer.
PO1 Bogart Sestoso Amor caught Dojie Geralde Canindo inside a multicab in Mambaling, not far from the venue. The latter wore a police uniform that lacked patches and carried a toy .9mm pistol. The suspect is a resident of Barangay Quiot, Cebu City.
Santos said he ordered his personnel to check the man’s background.
Canindo and his companions were allegedly planning to prey on people in churches, malls, parks, and public markets in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu City.
The suspect is now detained in the Cebu City Police Station 2.
PO1 Amor of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) 7 also seized cellular phones, wristwatches, three cell phone chargers, tape, pliers, key chain, cell phone case, leather belt, ammo pouch, portable butane stove, butane canister, cargo shorts, black jacket and wallet from the suspect.
The police officer also found seven SIM cards, P422.25 in cash, two company identification cards and other documents.
A complaint for usurpation and violating Republic Act 10591 (possession of a gun replica) will be filed against the suspect today.
In a separate interview, the CCTO’s Yap said that based on their monitoring, heavy traffic filled the Mambaling Access Road, SRP-Laray, Inayawan area and SRP-Compaña Maritima area.
Heavy traffic was also reported in the Banawa area, Salvador St. to Katipunan St., and N. Bacalso Ave.
Prior to the start of the mass yesterday, Yap said a huge number of people occupied both lanes of the SRP tunnel, waiting for Kaohsiung buses to ferry them to the site.
But since there were only 15 Kaohsiung buses, Yap said that most had to walk from the tunnel to the SRP.
When the mass ended past 7 last night, majority of the people, particularly those who were going home to the north, walked back from the SRP to the tunnel or to the Maritima area.
As of 8 last night, all roads in the SRP were already reopened by CCTO.
CCTO executive director Atty. Rey Gealon also sought the public’s forgiveness for any inconvenience caused by the road closures, but thanked them for their patience and understanding.
“Now, you can say that you have been part of Cebu City’s success in hosting the 51st IEC in Cebu. Let’s just hope and pray that we will be able to witness it again in this lifetime,” he said.