The general robotic reaction to the unlooked-for weekend house visits by police to residences of journalists—print, broadcast, news agency or any media platform—appears laudable.
But the way it was carried out, in parts of Metro Manila, left a bad taste in the mouth in the ranks of members of the fourth estate, days after the slaying by still to be arrested suspects in the death of a broadcaster in the metropolis.
We give a hand to law enforcers wanting to secure members of media, but, to borrow the words of Senator Jinggoy Estrada, the execution, which appears to be without a direct order from higher authorities, is “stupid and contemptible.”
What is galling at this point is the home visits were done by some, save an isolated few – by men not in uniform and were not coordinated with the journalists’ employers and the local government units that have jurisdiction over the journalists.
Let’s hear it from Senator Estrada: “And the most glaring of all, how could they get hold of very personal and sensitive information such as a home address of a journalist? I can see the sense in this move of the PNP but its execution is rather contemptible. It’s the most stupid idea, I must say.”
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also expressed similar sentiments regarding the incident: “How did the PNP get access to the reporter’s private information?”
We strongly feel that police and other law enforcement agents must know how to properly enforce laws and not violate these, appearing as it does now, absent any contrary and reasonable explanation, that the PNP violated the Data Privacy Act and they should answer for this.
We share Senator Estrada’s view that the unannounced and uncoordinated home visits of PNP personnel to some journalists last Saturday was a clear violation of the Data Privacy Act.
“It’s the most stupid idea, I must say. If they really wanted to know who among the journalists has been receiving death threats, the news organizations with which they are affiliated should be the first ones they have contacted,” Estrada said.
The thunderclap reaction of the Philippine National Police, while admitting they would release specific guidelines on how police officers should reach out to media practitioners, submits a boisterous boo-boo with the PNP spokesman admitting there was no direct order from Camp Crame nor from the regional director.
The guidelines should be released promptly, with copies forwarded to media organizations and LGUs, including, where necessary, the barangay levels.
PNP spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said the only instruction relayed to headquarters was to coordinate with media personalities and find out if they had been receiving threats following the killing of broadcaster Percival Mabasa, known by his on-the-air name as Percy Lapid.
There was no PNP instruction for the police to go to the residences of journalists to ask if they had been threatened.