CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Media groups on Monday, Feb. 24, welcomed Rep. Rufus Rodriguez’s proposal to amend a provision in the Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, that requires journalists to appear in court for the anti-drug cases that they cover during law enforcement operations.
“We are grateful that Rep. Rodriguez has considered our request to him to amend the law,” said Reynaldo Maraunay, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) chairperson for Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, in an interview Monday, Feb. 24.
Maraunay said they wrote to the city’s second district lawmaker as KBP has noticed that several radio reporters had their media work disrupted because of summons from courts.
Section 21 of RA 9165 requires a representative from the media to sign copies of the inventory of drugs and related items confiscated during anti-drug operations.
That provision in the law, Maraunay said, compels reporters to appear before the court and in the process interrupting their job flow.
“During the court hearing, the reporters’ time that should have been spent on news gathering is consumed by court appearances,” he said.
Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) national chairperson, said, “This is most welcome as we have been campaigning for this over the last few years. There is also a filed bill to amend the law to remove journalists altogether as witnesses.”
In Feb. 20 statement, Rodriguez said the present law is potentially putting the lives of journalists covering anti-drug operations in danger and stressed that acting as witnesses in drug-related cases is not part of the job of the media practitioners.
“It is not the job of media personnel to be involved in documenting drug operations and testifying in hearings,” Rodriguez said, “they are there to cover law enforcement activities, not to participate in documentation and subsequently in hearings.”
The lawmaker said that “the requirement puts journalists at risk, since it is not a remote possibility that the accused might get back at them for testifying in their cases.”
To address this, Roriguez said he introduced an amendatory bill scrapping the participation of media practitioners in drug operations and cases.
He said the proposed amendment provides that members of the media “shall be invited to join/cover anti-drug operations of the government for journalism purposes only.”
The amendment states that “(t)hey shall not be required, coerced or intimidated to sign the inventory of seized items, nor shall they be called as witnesses in any court proceeding in relation to the anti-drug operations they covered. Mere mention of the reporter’s name during the hearing should not be a group for the court to subpoena said reporter.”
The proposal further provides for “details and facts about the operation should not be used as condition for the reporter to sign the inventory.”
Rodriguez said there are enough public officers like participating law enforcers, prosecutors and barangay officials who would attest to the inventory of seized contraband in drug operations and testify in hearings. (davaotoday.com)