Estrada: PNP should explain surprise visits to journalists’ homes

(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police may have meant well when they sent officers to some journalists’ homes to check on them and ensure their safety but dialogues could have been arranged through newsrooms, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said Sunday.

He said having police officers conduct unscheduled visits raises questions that the police need to explain.

“If the purpose of ‘home visits’ of their personnel to the journalists’ residence is to ensure that there are no ‘threats’ to their lives, why are they not in their proper uniform? Why was there no coordination with the local officials and media company/outlet with which the concerned journalist is affiliated?” Estrada said in a statement.

“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?” 

The National Capital Region Police Office has apologized for the anxiety that the vists may have caused but stressed that the check-up visist had been well-intentioned.

“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 mamahayag,” Estrada said.

(If they really wanted to know who has made threats against the life of journalists, shouldn’t they first ask news organizations that journalists belong to?)

GMA broadcast journalist JP Soriano on Saturday recounted over Twitter how a police officer dressed in plainclothes visited his residence to ask whether he had recently received threats. The visit was part of an attempt by the NCRPO to check on journalists following the October 3 murder of Percy Lapid, who was shot while driving near the gate of his subdivision. 

Police Gen. Jonnel Estomo, NCRPO chief, has already ordered police commanders to issue a directive to stop visiting journalists at their houses and in civilian clothes.

The National Union of Journalists noted that the “home visits” end up contributing to their anxiety, defeating its purpose of making journalists feel safe against possible threats.

“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,” NUJP said in a statement Saturday.

Meanwhile, Estrada said the PNP should be held accountable for violating the privacy of journalists. Soriano on Sunday said he was concerned that the police knew his home address.

“Ang mga tagapagpatupad ng batas ay dapat alam kung paano ang tamang pagpapatupad ng mga umiiral na mga batas, hindi ang paglabag ng mga ito. Malinaw na nilabag ng hanay ng PNP ang Data Privacy Act at dapat na managot sila dito,” Estrada said.

(Law enforcers should know the right way to implement current laws, instead of being the ones breaking them. It is clear that the PNP has violated the Data Privacy Act and they should be accountable for their actions.)