Cop’s visit to journalist’s home stirs media unease
MANILA, Philippines — A police “gesture” to show concern for the safety and well-being of journalists in the wake of the assassination of broadcaster and vlogger Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa appeared to have backfired after a surprise visit by a plainclothes officer unnerved a television reporter on Saturday.
Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, head of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) of the Philippine National Police, apologized for the incident to “all our media friends” and ordered all police chiefs, down to the stations, to stop the home visits.
In a Twitter post on Saturday, JP Soriano of GMA TV said an officer in plainclothes showed up at his house unannounced to “check” on his security.
According to Soriano, the policeman showed him his identification card and introduced himself properly, saying he just wanted to see how he was doing.
He said the officer asked him if he had received any threats recently, considering the attacks on journalists, including the Mabasa murder on Oct. 3, and online threats against fellow broadcast journalists Ed Lingao and Lourd de Veyra.
“They said they were directed by the PNP to ‘check’ on journalists following what happened to Percy Lapid,” Soriano said in a series of widely shared tweets.
“I told him that there is no threat to me or to the others. I was asked if he can take a picture of me for documentation and I politely declined,” he added.
In a statement on Saturday night, Estomo confirmed that the house-to-house calls were among efforts by the police to secure journalists.
“In as much as the NCRPO is concerned about the safety and welfare of our mediamen, we confirm that it was our gesture to know if there are any threats on their lives and of their families in order to assess the security assistance that we have to accord them,” he said.
Estomo said the intention of the police officer who visited Soriano was good “but unfortunately, this have caused undue alarm and fear.”
NUJP: Added anxiety
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that far from making journalists feel safe, the visits would only “add to our anxiety as these were done without coordination with newsrooms.”
“Assuming good faith, these meetings and dialogues are best done through newsrooms or through the various press corps, press clubs and journalists’ organizations in the capital,” the group said.
After learning about what happened, Estomo said he immediately ordered all police commanders and station chiefs to “refrain from doing the same,” he said.
“Though we have a good intention to this endeavor, I personally apologize to all our media friends and investigation is already on place pertaining to this incident,” Estomo said.
Two hours after his post, Soriano said Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos called him up to assure him that the police officer’s visit would be immediately investigated and he would be provided with any assistance he may need.
‘Why in our house?’
“I want to clarify that the issue here was not the intention of the PNP to help and protect us, something that I can appreciate personally, but why in our own house?” Soriano said. “How and where did they get our home address? And why the need to take a picture? What for?”
According to Estomo, the officer involved had been identified and summoned to an inquiry.
He said Col. Benliner Capili, the chief of the Marikina police where the incident occurred, will carry out the investigation.
After Mabasa’s killing, PNP chief Gen. Rodolgo Azurin Jr. directed the NCRPO to hold dialogues with media personalities within its jurisdiction to get a sense of the danger that reporters were facing.
On Oct. 7, Estomo ordered five police districts in Metro Manila to coordinate closely with the media personalities in their areas of jurisdiction to identify possible threats against them to preempt similar events from happening in the future.
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