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NUJP condemns cops stepping over the line harassing news reporters using police authority and power

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Gone are the days when reporters can do their usual thingy of doing live reportings in public places from the sidewalks of a national highways and covering news during protest rallies without the fear of getting arrested under mere suspicious circumstances. Because now, apparently, police officers can just arrest and harass you, while you’re doing your job, even on live national television.

We have read many similar cases even before Mark Makalalad’s fateful experience while doing traffic report in the highways of Marikina. Mark is a Super Radyo/DZBB reporter for GMA News TV.

Such police’s extended use of authority and power have been recorded and reported during the George Floyd’s Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. In many instances, seasoned and junior reporters covering the street protests were handcuffed and arrested by state policemen. Some of the reporters were even beaten to the ground because arresting officers thought tbey’re one of the protesters.

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That almost similar incidents happened to Mark and Habagat Ferrales, intern photo-journalist from Manila Today, recently.

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Mark was just doing his job

Mark was doing his regular routine, reporting traffic situation when cops suddenly accosted and intimidated him for doing ‘nothing’. The only reason the cops gave him was because they thought Mark was an enemy ot the state.

On his Facebook post, Mark shared the incident to his friends and followers. He said that the cops wete asking for his identification which he left inside the news channel’s vehicle as he was reporting live on the streets last June 25.

Read Mark’s full account of the incident below posted in public settings on his Facebook, June 25, 4:0& PM.

Today’s experience:

I was doing a live traffic report in Marcos Highway (Marikina area) earlier, when a group of 4 policemen approached me after my report.

They asked me, “Sir, media ka ba? Patingin ng ID mo?”

I answered, “Sir, nasa mobile po nag-live report kasi ako kaya hinubad ko muna” (nakapark lang kami near the checkpoint)

They said, “Dapat po nagpaalam kayo sa amin na mag-la-live po kayo”

I explained, “Araw-araw po ako nag-l-live report sa iba’t ibang lugar, ngayon lang ako nakirinig na kailangan magpaalam sa pulis kapag magl-live. Bago po ba yang utos kasi lilinawin ko yan sa JTF-Covid Shield.”

“Hindi naman po sir, pero kailangan nyo po ng coordination kasi vinideohan nyo po kami.”

So, pinakita ko yung cellphone ko and I showed them na hindi ko sila vinideohan. Isa pa, ang selfie live ko ang background ay traffic, hindi sila. I felt bad kasi napagbintangan ako.

Ito ang argument ko, kunwari ordinary citizen lang ako at naglalalakad at nagvivideo, kunwari, vlogger, kailangan ko rin bang magpaalam sa kanila?

Sumagot yung isang pulis, baka kasi sir “kalaban ka.”

Doon nagpantig ang tenga ko.

Our conversation ended peacefully naman, I tried to understand them na lang since I respect our authorities.

I asked JTF-Covid shield Commander Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar if there’s an existing directive as such. According to him ‘walang ganyang instruction, Mark’

IN CONTEXT: Quarantine pass is no longer required in GCQ areas. Permission to seek clearance from police to do live report is NEVER an option.

Original version of Mark’s statement can be read here.

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In his follow-up post, after the incident Mark promised that he will wear his ID, at all times.

“I promise to wear my ID at all times. As for the uniform, I’ll check first sa baul. Lol.

Thank you sa lahat ng support! To those who stood by me, thank you. I have no regrets of sharing my experience. No intention to post that for personal interest, but only to give information. Marami rin pala ang nakaranas ng intimidation.

I have nothing against the whole police organization. Not all cops are like them because I have been covering crime and defense beat for quite some time now and I got to make friends with some of them, from the lowest to the highest rank.

For the record, they already apologized. I accepted it and I chose to forgive. But, sorry, I will never forget. #HindiAkoKalaban,” he wrote.

You can read Mark’s post here.

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A journalist caught between the melee

In Habagat’s case, he was almost arrested by cops while he was covering Pride March on June 26. Pride March is a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community.

Habagat was violently dispersed citing his lack of identification. He was bodily hauled into a police patrol car, even as colleagues vouched for him.

The police eventually released Habagat before they could take him off to Manila Police headquarters along with the other arrested activists.

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NUJP stands by journalists (and non-journalists)

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns these acts and would like to remind the police that no law prohibits anyone, journalist or not, carrying identification or not, for taking still images or video in public places and of public events.

These are just some of the incidents where we see and hear authorities using police force and might over the helpless and in unusual situation where boundaries of the law are being stepped over the line.

These issues add to the many reasons why many people protests against the anti-terror bill and why they bring #JunkTerrorBillNow to the streets. If these incidents can happen to legit news and media personnel, what more if an ordinary citizen gets into this compromising situation without any help or witnesses to rely on?

We still believe in the Philippine National Police (PNP), we should. But this institution must investigate these matters and reguarly remind their rank and file on where their jurisdiction over situations like these begins and ends.

If you have reports about police harrasment on journalists (and ordinary citizens), you may reach out to NUJP on their hotline number (9917) 515-5991.

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