The recent visits of police officers and officials to several media outlets in Cebu and Bacolod is a matter of some concern, not necessarily alarm, in local media circles in light of the backdrop of statements issued by the National Police hierarchy and the military in response to claims by the Duterte administration of destabilization efforts that is allegedly part of the so-called “Red October” plot of the opposition.
Anyone monitoring the daily news in mainstream media had learned by now how the military issued a list of schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) that are infiltrated by the communist New People’s Army who are said to be mobilizing students for the “Red October” uprising.
While the police assured that it won’t take action on the military’s list of schools that are hotbeds for student activism, it’s a different matter altogether when it came to mainstream media at least in Cebu and Bacolod.
This time, it’s not about communist infiltration and influencing but about critical news stories on the government’s war on illegal drugs that had resulted in a rising death toll that claimed the lives of even those whose guilt had yet to be proven in a court of law.
The initial accounts of habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) drivers Antonio Belande and Sharmaine Puran that policemen were allegedly responsible for the deaths of five men in Barangay Malubog, Cebu City, may have caused in part the sudden, unannounced visits of police officers in some media outlets in Cebu and Bacolod.
It’s not just a simple, meet-and-greet or courtesy call as Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, Police Regional Office (PRO-7) chief, said it is since, according to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), there were police officers that took photos of reporters without permission.
“Personally, I will not force the media to write anything about us. I will just give them what they want. That’s how transparent I am,” Sinas said.
Even if there is no directive from PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde to “implement a communications program” that would seek “partnerships” with media outlets to “showcase the PNP’s good deeds,” there’s no shortage of news stories that detailed police accomplishments in the campaign against criminality.
In fact, there are press corps that cover the police as well as the military and Sinas and his predecessors know this.
We hope that Sinas and other police officials hold true and fast to their commitment to be transparent and accessible even as they face mounting pressure for them to be more accountable to the public in their operations against criminality.
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