PNP’s media background check ‘closer to home’
Are reporters covering the Philippine National Police (PNP) now considered a threat to national security?
This question arose in the PNP press row after several reporters who had applied for accreditation at Camp Crame learned that police officers conducted a background check on them by going to the barangays where they live.
It’s been a longtime practice for a reporter assigned to cover a government agency to apply for accreditation, mainly to assure its officials that he or she is a bona fide employee of a media company.
But the Inquirer learned that, late last year, then PNP spokesperson and Public Information Office (PIO) head, Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, asked the PNP Directorate for Intelligence (DI) to also conduct background checks on media men who had asked for accreditation.
Chief Insp. Josef Leo Angeles of the PNP-PIO said Carlos made the request after a man posing as a member of media managed to attend an event at Crame.
The poseur was later caught and placed under arrest after a background check showed he was the subject of an arrest warrant.
When the Inquirer asked Carlos last month why he had requested such background checks on reporters, he did not cite the incident but explained that his request was part of the PIO’s verification process.
In a Nov. 7, 2017 memorandum to the PNP-DI signed by Carlos, a copy of which was shown to the Inquirer, he asked for a background investigation of a Radyo Inquirer reporter.
Angeles said it was only one of several requests sent by Carlos to the PNP-DI.
Asking around in Bulacan
Pathricia Roxas, a reporter of Inquirer.net, said a man went to her hometown in Bulacan province on Jan. 17 and asked barangay officials about her.
“The man did not identify himself and arrived on a motorcycle in our barangay and asked barangay officials about my background,” she added.
According to Roxas, barangay officials knew the man was a policeman as he had previously delivered documents from the local police.
“He told the barangay officials that he was asking about my background because I was covering the PNP,” she said.
Manila Times reporter Roy Narra said he received a text message and a phone call two weeks ago from a man who said he was from the Laguna police.
Secret, against protocol
The man asked that Narra meet him, noting that the reporter did not give his exact address in the accreditation form he filled out and submitted to the PNP on Jan. 2.
Narra was also asked to keep their conversation a secret because asking for a meeting was against protocol, the caller said.
Narra said he ignored the caller and brought up the matter with the PNP-PIO.
On Tuesday, two members of the PNP Intelligence Group (IG) arrived at the Radyo Inquirer office in Makati City and asked about the background of field reporter Cyrille Shaine Cupino.
PNP-IG personnel also dropped by the Light Network office to inquire about its PNP reporter, Amos Manalastas.
They asked for his home address, saying he did not indicate it in his application for accreditation.
On Wednesday, the newly appointed PNP spokesperson, Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, called off all background checks being conducted by the PNP-IG on media men.
But Bulalacao maintained that “verification for accreditation is a normal and regular process. It is the mandate of the PNP-PIO to accredit media representatives… We are all aware of that because that is in the guidelines.”
The vetting process extends to the person who signed a letter endorsing a reporter, to check if it was really from a media outfit, he added.
Bulalacao said PNP-DI had its own template for conducting background investigations, which may prove “alarming” to the media.
“The verification process for media practitioners should not be too tedious because there are after all endorsement letters from media companies.”
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