Advocate’s Overview: Philippines is fast turning into a police state


PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa claimed when he was appointed into that position to make a difference. His leadership will respect human rights, usually alleged to be violated by members of the PNP institution.

Lately, however, his promise evaporated like a bubble. He issued a directive to ban the public, including the media, from access to the police blotters.

The reactions of the public, including the media, were condemnation for Verzosa’s directive which is understandable.

Verzosa’s directive is an act which reveals his true character – a dictatorial tendency. Or to say it more precise, it is a part of a creeping authoritarianism.

It must be remembered that all the acts of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which transgress basic rights were thrashed by the Supreme Court. Remember the SC’s decision that Proclamation 1017 which put the country into an emergency is unconstitutional as it transgresses basic rights and no law to limit her power; remember their decision which declared the Calibrated Preemptive Response that prohibits peaceful assembly and freedoms of expressions and speech as unconstitutional.

Verzosa’s directive, like the above cases, contravenes the basic rights in our constitution. The Bill of Rights provides that the people have the right to information on matters of public concern. They are granted the access to these public records or documents, which include police blotter. It is because of this right to information and access to public records or documents that media exercise their role to bring it to the public. And it must be pointed out that this is mandated by the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights which is generally self-executory. Clearly, therefore, Verzoza’s directive has no leg to stand on but only shows a dictatorial tendency.

Of course, we have that rule that documents or records classified as confidential in relation with national security can be denied access to the public. But is reporting a crime or felony, or accident, contained in the blotter of the PNP an issue tainted with national security? Ow come on Gen.Verzoza! How could you now be different from the past PNP heads?

The Commission on Human Rights has been very strong at reiterating the respect for rights. CHR Chair De Lima strongly holds her constitutional mandate in pushing for the realization of these constitutionally enshrined rights. I personally admire her for her positions on, including that on Verzosa’s directive, and where she said that full access to, and enjoyment of, the right to information must be respected at all times.

I join my colleagues in the media this early to raise that Verzosa’s directive is a violation of the people’s right to information on matters of public concern. And I also join them in urging Gen. Verzosa to immediately withdraw his directive for the abovementioned reasons.#


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