DUE to the wonders of modern technology, like “body” cameras, there’s no question that the presence of a journalist during the inventory of seized illegal drugs is no longer necessary.
That’s why the National Press Club (NPC) requested the two-chamber Congress to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Signed into law during the incumbency of President Gloria M. Macapagal-Arroyo, the measure requires a member of the press to sign the inventory of seized or confiscated prohibited drugs.
NPC President Rolando Gonzalo said that with “body” and “surveillance” cameras, anti-drug operations can be conducted with transparency and on real time even without the presence of media.
Likewise, members of the press are put in harm’s way each time they join government anti-narcotics operations, citing the case of NPC member Tiburcio “Jojo” Trajano of Remate.
Gonzalo, a broadcast journalist, said that NPC records show that Trajano was shot dead by suspected drug personalities during police anti-drug operations in Rizal on June 3, 2009.
NPC Vice President Paul Gutierrez said that some drug cases might have ended being dismissed by the courts on a technicality for failure of a member of the press to attend court hearings.
The two NPC officials’ request was contained in their letter to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, principal author of RA No. 9165, and House Speaker Gloria M. Macapagal-Arroyo.
Police witnesses are punished by the PNP leadership, like dismissal from the service, for their refusal or failure to attend court hearings in various parts of the country.
“Dito galit na galit ang liderato ng PNP dahil walang magagawa ang mga korte kundi ibasura ang kaso laban sa mga suspek dahil hindi sumisipot ang mga testigong pulis,” said a police prober.
But unlike PNP officers and men, working journalists are not in a position to protect themselves because they don’t carry firearms even during police anti-drug operations.