Last week, reporter JP Soriano of GMA News was the target of a surprise visit at his home by police officer in plainclothes, ostensibly to check on threats to his safety, following the brazen killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa on October 3.
In a Twitter post, Soriano said a plainclothes police officer showed up in his house on Friday to inquire about his security. The officer said the Philippine National Police had directed them to check on journalists after Mabasa’s killing and the recent online threats to other broadcast journalists Ed Lingao and Lourd de Veyra.
After Soriano said he had received no such threats, the policeman asked to take his photo “for documentation” which was naturally declined. The cop then left to go to another journalist’s house in the neighborhood.
After a quick inquiry with Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro, the PNP later confirmed the instruction to conduct home visits on journalists.
The unannounced visit to members of the media raises the question of how the police were able to secure the private and personal information, and what kind of leadership and culture exists that makes them think unannounced visits to journalists who are not yet dead would be comforting in a country that has consistently been among the most dangerous for journalists?
To be fair to National Capital Regional Police Office chief Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo who confirmed that the visit was a gesture to know if there are any threats on the lives of journalists and their families, in order to assess the security assistance they can provide, he also acknowledged that the visit caused “undue alarm and fear” and apologized to the media.
If the police in this country think it is ok to knock on doors uninvited, reminiscent of their “Oplan Tokang” days, where they were given free rein to “visit” persons of interest that often ended up with their targets later being shot for allegedly fighting back; this ill-advised and unwelcome incident must serve as a reminder that unwanted police attention in this country often has a chilling effect and only adds to the anxiety of journalists.
While Filipino journalists do want to be assured of their safety, the PNP instead reminded them that there is nothing they can do as their privacy and personal information is being compromised. If this country is going to be safe for members of the media, it would be better if the police were better versed at finding the killers and masterminds of those who have been killed with impunity in this country.*