NBI to probe media leaks in Atimonan case
MANILA, Philippines—The National Bureau of Investigation will investigate the leak to the press of its report on the police killing of 13 alleged criminals in Atimonan, Quezon, on Jan. 6.
NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas said Thursday the leak embarrassed the bureau, as President Aquino had given strict orders to keep the results of the investigation confidential.
Rojas did not say whether heads would roll but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who submitted the report to Malacañang Thursday, said the source of the leak faced penalties ranging from suspension to dismissal for insubordination and misconduct.
“Suspension can be one day, one week, one month, six months, one year or two years and the maximum penalty is, of course, dismissal,” De Lima told reporters.
She said that while the government recognized the right of the press to access to information, as well as the reporters’ right to access to sources, she was leaving it to the NBI to decide whether to summon journalists who reported information leaked from the investigative report.
Were leaks correct?
Asked whether the leaks were faithful to the report, De Lima said “certain portions” that were published tended to show someone leaked the report.
“But I’m not confirming that’s contained in the report,” she said.
De Lima reiterated an earlier statement that the leak could be aimed at undermining her and Rojas’ leadership.
It was just an “impression,” she said, but added: “What does that mean, they want to embarrass the leadership of the NBI? Or they just want to give information despite repeated instructions from superiors [not to prematurely disclose the report’s contents]?”
“We will do our investigation and the negligence of our people and we will address this concern as we go on,” Rojas said.
The scope of the investigation has yet to be determined, he said.
Rojas said several units of the NBI were involved in the investigation and in the preparation of the report.
Actual pages from report
Measures were laid down to ensure confidentiality, including a ban on cell phones in closed-door discussions, De Lima said.
Still, images shown on television on Wednesday and Thursday indicated a leak of actual pages from the report.
“This is something very unfortunate. I am sad and really angry about how things have developed,” Rojas said.
“Despite our efforts to keep this probe [confidential], a leak still occurred and the media got some info,” he said.
“It is sad, it puts the NBI in an embarrassing situation,” he added.
A source in the bureau told the Inquirer that drafts of the report were shredded and moving copies of the report even inside the NBI complex was done under escort.
But an agent involved in the investigation questioned the investigation of a supposed leak.
“We could not understand what kind of leak they are talking about. It was an open investigation, all the people involved and their names were already known even before the NBI started its investigation,” the agent said.
All the agents involved in the investigation and in the preparation of the report are demoralized, the source said.
“It’s demoralizing because after working so hard this past month, and now instead of focusing our energy on other cases or the next phase of the investigation, which is the filing [of charges] and preliminary hearing, we have to face a probe that will also sap our time and energy,” the agent said.
But Virgilio Mendes, NBI deputy director for regional services and head of the Atimonan investigation, said the investigative group would respect De Lima’s order.
Rojas made it clear that there was no news blackout on the Atimonan investigation.
“It’s just that we did not want to disclose the results prematurely,” Rojas said.