PNP: Spooking the media | Inquirer Opinion
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PNP: Spooking the media

One evening, a police officer was almost an hour late for my three-hour evening graduate class at the University of the Philippines Faculty Center. “Pasyensya na, sir,” she began to explain. “Hindi na ako nakailag. Paalis na ako sa opisina nang tamaan ako ng ligaw na utos.” (I was unable to dodge; I was about to leave the office when I was hit by a stray task.) Everybody in the class laughed and marveled at her witty excuse.


But the saga of the bungling Philippine National Police as an organization is no longer a laughing matter. The organization seems unable to shoot straight, and the public gets hit by stray institutional bullets.

Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., PNP chief, in the wake of the Percy Lapid assassination, directed the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) to hold dialogues with media personalities to get a sense of the danger they faced. Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, NCRPO chief, relayed the directive, instructing the five police districts to coordinate closely with media personalities within their jurisdictions to get a sense of the danger they were facing.


Apparently, this well-intended directive was given without providing sufficient guidance or a task plan. In the wake of the media and public uproar, Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP spokesperson, says that neither Azurin nor Estomo gave any directive for police officers to conduct house-to-house visits, which is how some of them interpreted the top brass’ directive.

The absence of what to do and not to do, of course, is the problem. Without adequate guidance for the “reaching out” task, not even a police officer would know for sure how to execute it. Perhaps he appeared at a media person’s doorstep in plainclothes because he “understood” the assignment was to deliver a left-handed “friendly message”: “We know who you are and where you live.” And that is exactly how JP Soriano of GMA TV and other media persons who received the visit reacted to it—a generalized sense of alarm and fear.

Fajardo admits the police officers committed lapses. She said they should have coordinated with the barangay. But she herself said a police officer in Marikina got the address from the barangay officials, asking questions like “Mayroon po bang mga journalists o broadcasters dito sa lugar ninyo?”

The top PNP generals have apologized on behalf of the police officers. They should be ashamed of themselves. They failed to give accurate, valid, understandable instructions for such a sensitive and complex task unfamiliar to police officers.

These generals should be hauled before a Senate investigation to make a report of the whole operation—how the instructions were communicated down the hierarchy, the dates of the visits, the selection and the fielding of the police officers involved, the instructions (verbal or written) that they were given, who were involved in the visits (single officers, or teams with backups), where these visits occurred, what reports on the visits were submitted, what kinds of data were obtained, what the aggregated reports reveal, and how the data were supposed to be used by the PNP in aid of protecting the journalists. Additionally, once generated, who would have access to the sensitive data?

The real complexion of these house-to-house visits by police officers reveals a deeper dimension of concern. The PNP as an organization has developed a doublespeak system of communication, perfected under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. The PNP was at the forefront of the war on drugs that saw what is now reported to be anywhere from 6,000 to 30,000 drug war killings, many of these perpetrated by the police in and out of uniform. Yet, to this day, Duterte would claim he had given no explicit instructions for the extrajudicial killings, only that the police should “shoot to defend themselves.” Well, the police understood the instruction to mean exactly what they did—recreate the Davao “war on drugs” killing fields across the nation.

It would be such great disrespect for the sacrifice of Percy Lapid to think the criticism of the PNP is going overboard. In 2020, no less than 1,200 media professionals were killed throughout the world, and in nine out of 10 of these cases, the perpetrators have gone unpunished. The Philippines may be a laggard in many world lists of development and accomplishment, but in crimes and corruption, this country is an acknowledged leader.

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TAGS: GMA, Media, PNP, University of the Philippines
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