Originally published on the CMFR website on 10 October 2018.
CMFR/PHILIPPINES — The Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) and the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO) visited some local news offices last week to ask for “favorable coverage” of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) drug campaign. Bacolod City is 709.5 kilometers from Manila.
On October 3, four NOCPPO personnel visited the SunStar Bacolod office and reportedly appealed to the news staff for a “partnership.” According to their own report, the police also took SunStar Bacolod staff’s photos without permission. Editor-in-chief Marchel Espina, who was not present during the visit, expressed her concern and stressed that the incident “border[ed] on intimidation.”
Superintendent Lea Rose Peña, NOCPPO head of Police Community Relations, said that that they are only proposing media coverage on the police’s good deeds. Chief Inspector Sherlock Gabana, BCPO public relations officer, echoed Peña.
Espina claimed she does not see the point in the visit since her paper has been reporting PNP operations and even publishing their press releases.
Peña confirmed that they had received a memorandum from the PNP. According to a Rappler report, a copy of an order for a “partnership” between the police and the media obtained by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) shows that it was prompted by an undated verbal instruction from PNP chief Oscar Albayalde. PNP’s chief of directorial staff Camilo Cascolan issued the memorandum supposedly as part of a communication plan called Santinig.
In a statement, the local chapter of the NUJP said the media should not be blamed for critical stories because reporting the truth is their duty to the public, and that government forces must never harass, intimidate or attack journalists for doing their jobs.
For its part, a SunStar Bacolod editorial quoted the NUJP national directorate’s statement that said there is nothing wrong with the PNP’s desire for a good press, but that “it is one thing to cover the PNP’s accomplishments– and the media have never been remiss about giving credit where it is due. It is a totally different matter, though, to seek to recruit the media in a campaign meant to spruce up the service’s image.”