Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa gets flak over his new policy of restricting media access to police spot reports. Obviously the media sector was the first to criticize Dela Rosa over his anti- press freedom policy. The media sector got support from some of the Senators who expressed their objection against Dela Rosa’s policy. Senator Panfilo Lacson for one said it would violate the Executive Order signed by the President on the Freedom of Information. Lacson who is former PNP Chief, said if a spot report has no security classification such as top secret, restricted, or confidential, it should be open to media. Dela Rosa issued the directive at the height of the killings of at least three teenagers in the course of police operations against illegal drugs. The police chief was even quoted telling media “don’t be bias in reporting.”
The policy clearly strikes out the administration’s thrust of transparency since a spot report contains the raw or actual facts of an incident. In such a policy, the PNP wants to furnish media a PNP press release (PR) which from the word itself connotes that the facts of the incident are already sanitized. The PNP leadership however maintains a PR is not sanitized but a report that includes the result of the investigation. What the PNP wants is for media to wait for the result of the investigation before it would write something about an incident which is totally unacceptable to journalism work. This justification is quite ridiculous considering that police investigation normally drags from days to months, even years. So, that is it; the PNP wants the media to wait for the result of their snail-paced investigation which will make all their reports “bahaw” and worse, disinfected.
Though the PNP was quick to clarify that what the directive prohibits is to get a hard copy or reproduction of the spot report and prohibit access to spot report that are part of ongoing criminal investigation, still the same, restrictions are against the right to press freedom. As long as media do its responsibility of balance reporting, police should have no fear about media’s accessing spot reports for as long as these do not fall under security classifications. Professionalism is an important thing in this situation. Both the PNP and the media should be professional in dealing with their respective fields. Whether there is or no order barring media to spot reports, the mere mention of the prohibition is disturbing.