Police general took the phone of TV reporter who later found his video coverage deleted

January 10, 2020 - 4:20 PM
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Filipino devotees rest in front of a police barricade as they wait for the statue of the Black Nazarene during its feast day at Quiapo in Manila
Filipino devotees rest in front of a police barricade as they wait for the statue of the Black Nazarene during its feast day at Quiapo in Manila, Philippines, January 9, 2020. (Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

A ranking police officer grabbed the cellphone of a television reporter and attempted to delete a video coverage of the procession during the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

Reporter Jun Veneracion shared this story on Facebook and attached the video clip which was almost deleted.

As of publication, the post made rounds more than 8,000 times on the platform.

There are good cops but there some who think they can get away with murder. Here’s my personal account of an unpleasant…

Posted by Jun Veneracion on Thursday, January 9, 2020

 

The footage showed a commotion between the devotees and the police officers at the Ayala Bridge in Manila during Traslación.

“While taking footage on my phone of a commotion between cops and a hapless Black Nazarene devotee on Ayala Bridge in Manila, a police general suddenly darted out of nowhere and snatched my mobile unit. He quickly moved away from the scene,” Veneracion said on January 9.

“I was accosted by another police officer, preventing me from going after the police official who took away my phone; didn’t get his name and could no longer remember his face. But one thing stood out: I saw a star on his shoulders,” he added.

With the help of other journalists, he later found out that the police officer who took his phone was Brigadier General Nolasco Bathan of the National Capital Region Police Office.

When the phone was returned to him, he checked the phone’s gallery and noticed that the recording of the encounter earlier had been deleted. He then asked Bathan about it.

The police official denied it at that time: “Wala akong binura dyan, saksi ko pa ang Itim na Nazareno.”

When he watched the blurry video again, a voice of a man could be heard instructing another from the crowd to delete it.

A group of police officers was also shown apprehending one male devotee. Someone suddenly took it and only police uniforms could be seen. The faces of the officers, including that of the man who gave the order to delete the footage, could not be clearly seen.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounced this as an abuse of authority, citing Bathan’s need to lie when confronted.

“What Bathan did was not just an assault on press freedom. He also violated Veneracion’s rights as a citizen of the Republic,” the NUJP said.

“And the attempt to delete Veneracion’s footage is, to our mind, a crime. At the very least, he tried to destroy private property. Worse, here was a police officer destroying what could very well constitute evidence to the commission of a crime by his own men,” the organization added.

Veneracion’s colleagues likewise expressed their dismay over such actions of the police officer.

Bathan’s side of the story

Bathan said he was just following orders when he took Veneracion’s phone. He also didn’t know that the latter was a member of the media.

“Ang reaksyon ko unang-una, hindi ko alam na media siya. At ang instruction sa amin, bawal sa daan. Para makadaan ng maayos yung ating Andas. Yun lang,” the police officer said in an interview.

“Nagkataon nakita ko merong kinuha na magulo na deboto. Here comes another guy, nagpi picture, akala ko nire-rescue niya yung deboto na magulo. Kinuha (ko) ang cellphone niya,” he added.

Bathan also denied ordering another officer to delete the video, even if an order was heard in the video. He also said that the person they were arresting was among the unruly ones.

Veneracion eventually accepted the apology.

On the side of PNP

The Philippine National Police assured the public that it will conduct a speedy investigation over the incident.

“Rest assured that the PNP wouldn’t tolerate this. We always respect the rights of the media to cover events like this. We will look into this and the PNP will deal with this matter speedily,” PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac said.

Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of Interior and Local Government said he already talked to Veneracion about the matter, but he has yet to talk to Bathan.

“Pa-imbestigahan natin yung isyu na ‘yan. At nakausap ko naman si Jun Veneracion. Sabi ko ‘if you want to file a formal complaint, you can do so,” he said.