Lawmakers alarmed by PNP’s visits to journalists’ homes
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers on Sunday expressed concern over a police order authorizing cops to visit the homes of journalists “for their security,” following the murder of veteran broadcaster Percy Lapid in Las Piñas City.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada said that while he understood the sense behind it, he questioned its purpose and tagged its execution as “contemptible” and “the most stupid idea.”
“I can see the sense in this move of the PNP [Philippine National Police] but its execution is rather contemptible. It’s the most stupid idea, I must say. Kung gusto nilang alamin kung sino ang mga may pagbabanta sa buhay ng mga journalists, hindi ba dapat na una nila itong inalam sa mga news organization na kinabibilangan ng mga mamamahayag (If they wanted to know who is threatening the lives of journalists, shouldn’t they have first informed the news organizations that the journalists belong to)?” said Estrada in a statement.
He also questioned why police officers who visited journalists’ homes were not in uniform, and why there was no coordination with the local officials, as well as with the respective media companies that the journalists were part of.
“And the most glaring of all, how could they get hold of very personal and sensitive information such as a home address of a journalist?” asked Estrada.
Estrada said that coordinating with media organizations would have made it easier to identify who needs their help, adding that law enforcement “should know how to properly enforce existing laws, not violate them.”
“Malinaw na nilabag ng hanay ng PNP ang Data Privacy Act at dapat na managot sila dito (The ranks of the PNP clearly violated the Data Privacy Act and they should be held accountable for it),” he added.
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, House Deputy Minority Leader and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) partylist Rep. France Castro said that even though National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) head Jonnel Estomo had already apologized and ordered a halt on the said order, the Congress should still probe the incident.
“We think that this incident has to be investigated by Congress and should not be taken as an isolated incident and be viewed on the wider perspective of media harassment, red tagging, and extra-judicial killings,” she said.
“We want to have a copy of the memorandum ordering the visits as well as pose questions on its operationalization as this type of move only caused more anxiety to media practitioners as pointed out by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP),” Castro added.
She also compared the order to the incident where teachers were also visited by police only to get profiled and red-tagged.
“Nakakalungkot na ginagawa pa din ito ng mga pulis at militar ‘di lang sa mga guro pati na din sa ibang tao at organisasyon. May ganitong kaso rin noong isang buwan na mga baranggay officials naman ang pinapunta ng mga pulis sa bahay ni Renato Reyes, secretary general ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan para daw matiyak ang mga detalye sa kanya,” said Castro,
(It is sad that the police and the military are still doing this not only to teachers but also to other people and organizations. There was also a similar case last month when the police sent barangay officials to the house of Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan to ascertain his details.)
“The problem with these supposed ‘visits’ though are they are not mere visits because by doing so they are illegally accessing and/or disclosing and/or using personal information, including sensitive personal information like residence and political leanings, perceived or actual, of the people they are supposedly ‘visiting’,” she added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said that as a former broadcast journalist, she stands “squarely beside my former colleagues and the country’s fourth estate,” as the country needs more than ever “a free and strong media.”
“In this political climate, and in the wake of the killing of Percy Lapid, hindi natin masisi ang ating mamamahayag na kabahan (we can’t blame journalists for being anxious), which in turn can have a chilling effect on journalistic freedom,” she said.
But Hontiveros acknowledged Estomo’s apology for the house visit order and said that it was good that they immediately put an end to it.
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