One member of Pope Francis’ Philippine security team earned a special introduction yesterday from President Aquino himself.
Pope Francis grinned and gave his blessings after being introduced to “Pope Caster” – the moniker earned by Special Police Officer 3 Jaime Castro after several days of acting as the pontiff during security dry runs.
A member of the police contingent in the Presidential Security Group (PSG), Castro looked thrilled yesterday as he got to kiss the papal ring and received the special blessing.
Aquino was overheard telling Pope Francis that Castro – known as Caster in the PSG and Malacañang – served as the pontiff’s food taster throughout his visit and is “the most religious” member of the presidential guards.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who knows Castro personally, was seen saying something to the pope, who grinned and thanked the police officer for his work.
Castro performed the same function for Aquino’s late mother Corazon during her presidency. Under the current President Aquino, Castro heads the PSG’s food and beverage security unit.
As Aquino waited at the Kalayaan lounge of Villamor Air Base for the pope’s arrival yesterday morning, he was overheard saying he would introduce Castro to the pontiff.
Castro studied commerce at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He received police intelligence training in detecting toxic substances in food and beverage.
During the visit of Pope John Paul II in the Philippines in 1995, Castro was part of the Philippine National Police team that provided covert security for the pontiff.
That visit was marred by an assassination plot code-named Oplan Bojinka, which was uncovered just days before the pope’s arrival.
The principal plotters included Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, convicted mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.