Media groups welcome solon’s move to amend anti-drug law
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Media groups welcome the move of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to amend a provision in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, or Republic Act 9165, that requires journalists to appear in court for anti-drug cases, whose law enforcement operations they covered.
“We are grateful that Rep. Rodriguez has considered our request to amend the law,” said Reynaldo Maraunay, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) chairperson for Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.
Maraunay said in an interview on Monday, February 24, that the KBP noted how radio reporters, who were summoned by various courts, had been affected in their work because they need to attend court proceedings.
This has prompted KBP to ask the city’s second district lawmaker to initiate moves to amend this law.
Section 21 of RA 9165 includes representative from the media among those required to sign the copies of the inventory of drugs and related items confiscated during an anti-drug operation.
Maraunay said this provision compelled reporters to appear before the court, interrupting their job flow in the process.
“The reporters’ time that should have been spent on news gathering is consumed by court appearances and court hearings,” Maraunay said.
Rodriguez’ move also earned the support of the national media group National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP).
“This is most welcome as we have been campaigning for this over the last few years,” said Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, NUJP chair. “There is also a bill (filed earlier) to amend the law to remove journalists altogether as witnesses,” he added.
Rodriguez said in a Feb. 20 statement the present law potentially put the lives of journalists covering anti-drug operations in danger and stressed that acting as witnesses in drug-related cases was not part of the job of media practitioners.
“It is not the job of media personnel to be involved in documenting drug operations and testifying in hearings,” Rodriguez said, “They are there to cover law enforcement activities, not to participate in documentation and subsequent hearings.”
The lawmaker said the requirement “puts journalists at risk, since it is not a remote possibility that the accused might get back at them for testifying in their cases.”
To address this, Rodriguez said he has introduced an amendatory bill scrapping the participation of media practitioners in drug operations and cases.
He proposed that members of the media “shall be invited to join/cover anti-drug operations of the government for journalism purposes only.”
“They shall not be required, coerced or intimidated to sign the inventory of seized items, nor shall they be called as witnesses in any court proceeding in relation to the anti-drug operations they covered. Mere mention of the reporter’s name during the hearing should not be a cause for the court to subpoena said reporter,” the amended version read.
It also provides that “details and facts about the operation should not be used as condition for the reporter to sign the inventory.”
Rodriguez added there were enough public officers, like participating law enforcers, prosecutors and barangay officials who could attest to the inventory of seized contraband in drug operations and testify in hearings.
“We should not burden our journalists with that. It’s not part of their job,” he said.
Maraunay expressed optimism that Rodriguez’s proposed amendment would be approved in Congress.
“Cong. Rufus understands the concerns of the media and I know that he will fight for it [amendment] in the Lower House,” he said.
Edited by JPV
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