Editorial: On the planned signal shutdown

Authorities have plans to implement a temporary shutdown on cellphone signals during the solemn foot procession on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023 and the Sinulog Grand Parade on Sunday, Jan. 15.

The practice of temporary signal shutdown started in 2016, and it was shelved in the pandemic years of 2021 and 2022 because there were no large in-person events during the Fiesta Señor and the grand parade was also put on hold in those two years.

Shutting down cellular services in certain areas during large events is a common practice. For the police, adding an extra layer to their security preparations can put them at ease during the event. This is because shutting down the signals can help in preventing a remote detonation of explosives and disrupt the coordination of any potential attacks.

However, police and city government officials could perhaps consider not implementing the signal shutdown. Why? It is not a foolproof method.

Increasing police presence, using metal detectors and conducting bag checks (if carrying of bags would be allowed) at the entrance points of the two events are the other security measures that can be implemented. And the police and their augmentation forces, including the military, have been doing these in the past fiestas and Sinulog events.

Having a higher number of police officers at an event can help deter potential threats, and the police can respond quickly if an incident does occur.

Pursuing the planned signal shutdown can disrupt communication for the public, especially in an emergency situation. If there is a Sinulog reveler, for instance, who needs immediate medical attention, that person might not receive care right away if he is far from his companions or his companions near him cannot make an emergency call. If there is a medical team nearby, then that person is lucky.

If authorities are not confident with their security preparations, they can always resort to shutting down cellphone signals. For the revelers it is inconvenient, but better safe than sorry, the authorities would certainly say in defense.