Originally published on the CMFR website on 3 August 2016.
Members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 6 allegedly harassed a reporter from a state-run television channel while she was covering a drug buy-bust operation on July 26 in Iloilo City. Iloilo City is 660 kilometers south of Manila.
Rena Manubag Dago-on of IBC TV 13 was driving along Jaro district when a traffic enforcer told her that there was an ongoing PDEA buy-bust operation against suspected drug pushers in Barangay El 98 of the same district.
Dago-on immediately went to the area but found out that the operation was over. The reporter decided to take photos of post-operations activities instead. Dago-on then approached some PDEA agents to ask for details about what happened.
Dago-on told CMFR that the agents, who were wearing face masks, berated her for taking their photos. The agents, she said, “badmouthed” her, and one of them even seized her phone and deleted the photos she had taken with it.
According to Dago-on, she identified herself as a journalist and the wife of Supt. Salvador Dago-on, chief of the Iloilo City Police Office Intelligence Unit, but the PDEA agents refused to believe her. Dago-on did not have her press identification (ID) card on her person when the incident happened.
When the reporter tried to go to her car to get her ID card, one of the agents asked his colleagues to stop her from leaving and accused her of being an accomplice of the drug suspects.
The PDEA agents took a photo of her and her identification card before they left the area.
Dago-on has written PDEA Western Visayas director Gil Pabilona requesting for the identity of the PDEA agents involved in the incident and for disciplinary action against them.
She also told CMFR that she plans to consult a psychologist for the trauma she suffered due to the incident.
The Iloilo Press Club (IPC), Iloilo Provincial Capitol Press Corps (IPCPC) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Iloilo Chapter are supporting the complaint she filed and have asked the PDEA to apologize for its men’s behavior.
PDEA-6 Regional Information Officer David Abraham Garcia told CMFR that the agents became suspicious of Dago-on when she started taking photos because she did not identify herself as a journalist. But Garcia said that the agency is open to a diplomatic settlement.
As of press time, the PDEA is still investigating the incident.