By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is calling on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to sanction Southern Police District director, Police Brigadier General Nolasco Bathan, after he snatched the mobile phone of GMA News reporter Jun Veneracion last Thursday during the Traslacion in Metro Manila.
In a statement posted on NUJP’s social media page, they claimed the law enforcement official committed an “abuse of authority” when he took the phone and ordered the photos and captured footage to be deleted.
According to Veneracion, he was shooting video of a devotee being subdued by policemen, one of whom was allegedly applying a choke hold, when his phone was taken from him by the police official.
When confronted, the reporter said the general, who he described as “fuming mad,” threatened to take away his handheld radio as well.
Bathan eventually returned Veneracion’s phone, claiming he did not recognize the reporter.
The reporter then said he checked his phone’s gallery and found his video of the devotee was missing. When he asked Bathan why it had been erased, the general denied deleting the video, invoking the Black Nazarene as “a witness.”
Veneracion later found the file in his recently deleted folder.
“What Bathan did was not just an assault on press freedom, he also violated Veneracion’s rights as a citizen of the republic,” NUJP said.
They also characterized the attempt to delete the footage as “a crime.”
“Such behavior not only makes a mockery of the policeman’s oath to ‘serve and protect,’ if [it goes] unpunished, it can only add to the worsening impunity that has marked the general breakdown of the rule of law in this country,” they stated.
Although the PNP has yet to comment on the incident as of press time, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said he will not tolerate Bathan’s behavior and called for an investigation./DGB, WDJ