Quiapo, Manila is not a place one can confidently walk around holding one’s valuables. This part of town is known for having many petty criminals ready to snatch one’s phone, wallet, or watch if one were the least bit unguarded.
Last Thursday, however, it was not a petty thief but a police general who took a journalist’s cell phone from his hands.
Covering the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene Nov. 9, GMA reporter Jun Veneracion was recording a commotion between cops and one devotee who was being dragged to the ground. One cop pushed the devotee, yet another held him in a chokehold.
Suddenly, a man “darted out of nowhere and snatched my mobile unit. He quickly moved away from the scene,” said Veneracion in a Facebook post.
When he turned and tried to get his phone back, yet another cop prevented him from approaching the “snatcher.” Fortunately, Veneracion had the presence of mind to recall that the cop who took his phone had stars on his shoulders—Brigadier General Nolasco Bathan, chief of the Southern Police District.
When he managed to get near Bathan, the general supposedly threw a fit and threatened to take his hand-held radio; it was only much later that a calmer, friendlier Bathan supposedly told him: “I’m sorry, Jun, I didn’t recognize you.”
When Veneracion looked for the video, he found it in his “recently deleted” folder. It is now posted on social media, including the last few seconds where a man was clearly heard saying “burahin mo, (delete it).”
As of press time, no comments have been obtained from Bathan or from the Philippine National Police. We wonder how they would explain away the very obvious violation of rights committed against both the hapless devotee and the journalist who was just trying to do his job recording events that transpired during the annual event.
It is not clear what the cops had against the devotee, and we doubt if anything would justify the way he was dealt with by so many policemen.
What is clear is that Bathan saw something that he felt must not be made known to the public, and out of impulse took matters, quite literally, into his own hands.
President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to appoint the next PNP chief after the disgraceful exit of the most recent one, General Oscar Albayalde who was tagged in the so-called ninja-cops scandal. We are certain this gap does not necessarily mean the police force is rudderless or unhinged, as the police force tries to rehabilitate its image and as thousands of conscientious cops strive to give the organization its good name.
Bathan’s actuations, however, are a jarring reminder that there are some exceptions to the general effort. We hope something is done by the leadership in this regard—unless it agrees that the PNP has the right to stifle the people’s right to know about what is really going on from the very organization mandated to protect them.