PNP to adjust if City Hall nixes signal shutdown

Police officers and force multipliers secure the streets of Iloilo City during the Dinagyang festival on Jan 21-22, 2023. The PNP said it will work with whatever changes the city government will make on future security preparations. (Joseph B.A. Marzan photo)

By Jennifer P. Rendon

Flexibility is the key.

The Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 sees no problem in doing away with the telecommunications signal shutdown if the Iloilo City government would not endorse it for future Dinagyang festivals.

Brigadier General Leo Francisco, Western Visayas police chief, said that they would work in what the city government would see fit.

“If that will be the mayor’s plan, if he will not endorse the request of signal interruption in the future, the public safety sector has to adjust their security plans and strategies to mitigate possible scenarios and probabilities when there is a signal,” he said.

On Monday morning, Francisco led the closing ceremony for the police, other law enforcers, and force multipliers who were deployed for the Dinagyang celebration from January 16 to 22.

Mayor Jerry Treñas, who was supposed to be one of the guests, did not attend.

In a press conference following the program, Francisco was asked about his take on the importance of signal jamming or signal shutdown since it drew the ire of some sectors during the Dinagyang weekend.

He said that the PNP has been adopting such practice in other major events all over the country.

“And it helped us in our security requirements,” he said.

In the case of the Dinagyang 2023, Francisco said they had specific areas where they requested the signal shutdown to be implemented.

The PNP provided the NTC with a map to identify the areas that would be covered by the signal jamming.

These areas include the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, Plaza Libertad, Plazoleta Gay, Provincial Capitol, Delgado, and Quezon Streets, and in Central Market, and the University of Iloilo where “Kasadyahan sa Kabanwahanan” and Ati Tribes Competition will be held.

The signal jamming ran from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on January 21 and 22.

Signal jamming was also implemented during the Dinagyang ILOmination tribes competition and Parade of Lights on the evening of January 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the new business district in Mandurriao.

The areas include Seda Hotel, Gaisano City/Time Square, iloilo Business Park, Atria District, Plazuela de Iloilo, SM City, and Festive Mall.

Indeed, the modified signal jamming happened. But it turned out for the worse.

Mobile phone and internet use all over Iloilo City were shut off.

The signal jam also affected neighboring towns like Oton, San Miguel, Leganes, and some parts of Sta. Barbara.

Worse, mobile phone users in Guimaras province also claimed they also received no signal.

“We requested specific areas. The NTC might be able to explain the technical issues of why the coverage went that far,” he said.

The NTC regional office has clarified its role in the matter. (See sidebar story)

A few hours after that, Treñas issued a statement that he will no longer support signal jamming for the 2024 Dinagyang Festival.

“Except for the signal jamming, the celebration of Dinagyang 2023 was a great success. I will no longer endorse the request of the PNP for signal jamming next year,” Treñas said.

But he also cited that he was taking full and complete responsibility for what happened.

On the possibility that future major events in the region would adopt signal jamming, the PNP has yet to issue a statement on it.

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