By Hannah Torregoza and Martin Sadongdong
Senators on Thursday said they find it highly unusual that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has started limiting the access of media to police spot reports.
A spot report contains the initial information about a particular incident, the identities of the parties involved, the time and place of occurrence of the incident, the sequence of events and the investigator on case.
Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV, a member of the Senate minority bloc, said this raises questions whether the police are hiding anything from the public as the government deals with the backlash on the rising number of deaths in light of the government’s intense campaign against illegal drugs.
“Are they hiding something?” Aquino queried during an interview.
“Last hearing, Gen. Ronald (Bato) dela Rosa agreed that the PNP has nothing to hide that’s why we are puzzled over this directive to their personnel not to release spot reports to the media,” Aquino added.
“If they have nothing to hide, they should show this (spot report) to the media),” Aquino stressed believing members of media are responsible enough to handle confidential information contained in spot reports.
What security classification?
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a former PNP chief, said the PNP leadership ought to answer what specific security classification category does police spot reports fall under?
“If there is no security classification, either restricted, confidential, secret or top secret, then there is no reason not to share it,” Lacson pointed out.
“Didn’t Malacañang release an executive order and it covers all executive offices that exercises freedom of information? They will violate the EO released by the President,” Lacson warned.
As far as he knows, Lacson said spot reports do not have a security classification.
“I just don’t know now. But Gen. Dela Rosa promised during the last hearing, they will submit it to the Senate,” he said.
No such order
But while police precincts in Cebu and selected precincts in the Southern Police District have started withholding spot reports from members of media only recently, PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said this is not new. He said this is an old policy which springs from a February 18, 2014 memorandum order on the proper handling of documents especially if there are security considerations.
Executive Order No. 2 (Freedom of Information) was signed by President Duterte on July, 2016, two years after the memorandum order was signed. Legal sources said a memorandum order cannot supercede an Executive Order.
Newsmen covering the Manila police said the restriction on the spot report only started after the controversial killing of Kian delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman.
On Wednesday, the Pasay police still allowed the Manila Bulletin access to spot reports but an investigator barred the paper access yesterday.
The Makati police likewise started to implement the three-year-old policy this week.
Pasay police chief, Senior Superintendent Dionisio Bartolome clarified that the order aims to avoid conflicting statements with regard to cases which may result to confusion.
Instead of spot reports, Bartolome said information about cases would be in the form of a press release.
Bartolome said under the FOI, the spot report is a “protected document.”
The Quezon City Police District appears to be unaware of such policy and have been liberal in dishing out information to media.
The FOI defines “information” as pertaining to “records, documents, papers, reports” among others. “Officials records” are defined as “information produced or received by a public officer or employee, or by a government office in an official capacity or pursuant to a public function or duty.
The EO however listed nine exceptions, namely: Information covered by Executive privilege; Privileged information relating to national security, defense or international relations; Information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety; Information deemed confidential for the protection of the privacy of persons and certain individuals such as minors, victims of crimes, or the accused; Information, documents or records known by reason of official capacity and are deemed as confidential, including those submitted or disclosed by entities to government agencies, tribunals, boards, or officers, in relation to the performance of their functions, or to inquiries or investigation conducted by them in the exercise of their administrative, regulatory of quasi-judicial powers;
Prejudicial premature disclosure; Records of proceedings or information from proceedings which, pursuant to law or relevant rules and regulations, are treated as confidential or privileged; Matters considered confidential under banking and finance laws, and their amendatory laws; and Other exceptions to the right to information under laws, jurisprudence, rules and regulations. (With reports from Jaimie Rose A. Aberia, Alexandria Dennise San Juan, Reynaldo Panaligan, and Lorenzo Jose Nicolas)