SPD chief Bathan to retain post amid cellphone grabbing probe
MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Southern Police District (SPD) will retain his post amid an ongoing investigation on his confiscation of the cellphone of GMA reporter Jun Veneracion.
The move was contrary to a number of previous incidents in the Philippine National Police (PNP) where officials accused of violations were immediately relieved from their positions to ensure impartial probe.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) acting chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said Brig. Gen. Nolasco Bathan would still be the SPD director as he was only doing his job to secure devotees of the Black Nazarene when he confiscated Veneracion’s phone on Thursday’s Traslacion.
“No. It’s not. Because ‘yun naman (what happened), it’s part of his performance or function,” Sinas said in a press conference on Tuesday when asked if Bathan will be temporarily removed from the SPD.
He said he would let the Regional Internal Affairs Service of the NCRPO submit its recommendation for Bathan first before taking any sanction on the police official.
Veneracion was documenting a commotion between policemen and a devotee of the Black Nazarene along Ayala Bridge when Bathan seized the reporter’s mobile phone.
When the phone was returned to the reporter, the footage was already deleted. He was able to restore the footage, which incidentally captured the voice of a man ordering someone to delete the recording of the disturbance.
“‘Burahin mo (Delete), burahin mo kuha ni (delete the recording of) Jun Veneracion. Put***-ina nagku-kwan eh (SOB…),’” the man was heard saying in the video clip.
Bathan admitted confiscating the phone, but denied he barked an order to erase the footage. He said he did not recognize Veneracion as a reporter.
According to Bathan, the man being subdued by policemen in the area was the leader of agitators in the procession.
“Then here comes another guy na bigla kaming hinawi from nowhere, nagcecellphone, so ang naisip ko baka pakiramdam ko nga, kala ko parang granada. Kahit nga granada ‘yun, for safety, aagawin ko pa rin ‘yun to save lives,” he said.
(Then here comes another guy who suddenly shoved us out of nowhere, he was using a cellphone, so I thought, I felt, I thought it was like a grenade. Even if it was a grenade, for safety, I will still seize that to save lives.)
But when categorically asked if he thinks the cellphone being held by Veneracion was a grenade, Bathan said: “No. [I am saying] just in case na kahit granada ‘yun (that it was a grenade), iga-grab ko pa rin (I will still grab it) because at that moment I did not know that he is Jun Veneracion. Ang alam ko (What I know is) he poses a threat to the activity.”
PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said it will be the prerogative of Sinas on whether or not to relieve Bathan from his post.
Bathan had said sorry both publicly and privately to Veneracion, who had accepted the apology.
Meanwhile, Sinas defended the actions of the police during the procession, saying they were only enforcing security measures for the annual procession.
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