XMAS DAWN MASS IN ARMM GOING ON SMOOTHLY
COTABATO CITY – The traditional “Simbang Gabi” in Christian-majority communities across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been generally peaceful so far, a police official said Thursday.
Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, ARMM police director, said police units in the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, and the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi have all been placed on heightened alert even before the start of the nine-day Simbang Gabi (dawn masses).
“No untoward incident that affected the dawn masses were reported so far,” Mijares said in a statement. The dawn masses started on December 16 and will end on Dec. 24, the eve of Christmas day.
“We will remain on alert as we welcome Christmas,” Mijares said.
ARMM is predominantly Muslim but about 15 percent are non-Muslims who observe the Christmas tradition. As of 2015 census, ARMM has a population of 3.7 million.
Earlier, Mijares directed police provincial directors to deploy mobile patrol units with blinkers turned on to visibly establish police presence but not necessarily creating undue alarm to the public.
The police director reminded police from day one of Simbang Gabi, also known as Misa de Gallo, to be vigilant against criminal elements engaged in common street crimes such as robbery, theft, burglary on unattended homes, holdups, swindling and gang wars.
Mijares lauded the officials, village watchmen, citizen volunteers and force multipliers in the region’s 2,490 for extending assistance to local police in maintaining law and order in their respective areas.
Philippine National Police Director Gen. Oscar Albayalde has earlier ordered all police units in the country to step-up visibility and patrol operations to ensure public safety and security until the New Year’s celebration.