By Roy Lagarde
March 23, 2021
Malacañang has threatened to use police powers to close down churches that will defy its order prohibiting mass religious gatherings in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said doing so would be “contrary” to the decision of the national Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
“In the exercise of police powers we can order the churches closed. I hope we’ll not reach that point,” Roque said in a televised press briefing on Tuesday.
The official was reacting to the pastoral instruction released by Bishop Broderick Pabillo for this year’s Holy Week celebrations in the Manila archdiocese.
Pabillo said public Masses will continue in the archdiocese, which covers the cities of Manila, Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong and San Juan, starting March 24 up to 10 percent capacity.
“We follow the minimum standards of the health protocols but we continue to pray and worship the Lord,” Pabillo said.
“Let the worshippers be spread apart within our churches, using the health protocols that we have been so consistently implementing,” he said.
But the prelate prohibited any religious activity outside the churches such as senakulo, pabasa, procession, motorcades, and visita iglesia.
The government has earlier banned mass gatherings, including public Masses, in Metro Manila from March 22 to April 4, a period that covers Holy Week.
Also covered by the restrictions are churches in the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Weddings, baptisms, and funerals are allowed but only 10 people can gather at a time.
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