MEDIA access to police spot reports will be barred by the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Davao, according to a Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters' directive.
PRO-Davao spokesperson Police Senior Inspector Catherine dela Rey said Thursday, September 14, that PRO-Davao Regional Director Police Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan told her that they have received the PNP main office's order that limits media access to some police documents and said that they will comply and follow these guidelines.
Unlike before, media could no longer have the copy of the spot reports of the operations conducted by different provincial police stations, municipal police stations, city police stations and police stations within their jurisdiction so as not to preempt the ongoing investigation.
Dela Rey, however, added that media could still obtain copy of initial reports or police blotters which are classified documents under the PNP Media Relations Manual issued on February 18, 2014 but not the spot report.
By definition, police blotter refers to a record or log where all types of operational and undercover dispatches shall be recorded containing the five "W" and one "H"(who, what, where, when, why, and how) of an information.
For spot report, it is a document of immediate initial investigative or incident report addressed to higher headquarters pertaining to the commission of the crime, occurrence of natural or man-made disaster or unusual incidents involving loss of lives and damage of properties.
She further assured the media in Davao region that they will release press releases to keep them updated on what is happening in their office and to also direct interview with the public information officers of respective police stations of any incident in their areas of responsibility (AOR) is allowable.
Earlier, PNP spokesperson Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said that police stations will not release police reports to the media if the investigation is still ongoing otherwise allowed by the head of office.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) lambasted the PNP's decision to control the media's access to information in relation to their operations which is a public document and urged police commanders not to obey the "illegal order" for the sake of the principle of "transparency and accountability."
"Suggestions that press releases will be issued in lieu of allowing access to spot reports are NOT acceptable. Press releases, by their very nature, are sanitized and angled to favor the issuing body and are, thus, not an objective source of information," the statement said.
Meanwhile, Davao City AFP-PNP press corps officer Ruth Palo said she respected the decision of the PNP if it is intended for security reason and also she understands that it only meant to make ongoing investigation of a certain incident as confidential as possible.
"There must be a clear reason/s why the PNP should ban members of the media to access spot reports. It is fine with me if it is for security purposes, if this would preempt their follow up operations or investigation and if it concerns with national security," she said.
"But need to inform media practitioners of a certain incidents not necessarily to access their spot reports,” she added.
On Wednesday, September 13, the PNP, however, said it has not issued a new directive on barring media access from spot reports.
Carlos said they only reiterated the PNP-Media relations policies and manual issued on February 18, 2014.
"The one that we have are the guidelines. So we are just reiterating this, kung naging issue man 'yung naging ulat sa Cebu (if ever the report in Cebu was an issue), well this is what we have. PNP media relations policies and manual," said Carlos in a press briefing.
He said police officers in the precincts have been reminded to review the classification of documents that can be released to the media.
He said they should take into consideration its security classification, if it is forming part in a criminal investigation and if the subjects include minors and women particularly in rape cases.
Documents that are being allowed for media consumption based on the existing PNP-Media relations policies and manual are press releases.
Journalists in Cebu earlier urged the PNP to reconsider its order disallowing the release of spot reports in police precincts.
This development came after the Central Visayas police received a memorandum ordering them not to release spot reports to the media.
"No spot report will be released to the media," read the memorandum sent via text message from the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
Carlos clarified that blotter reports can be accessed anytime but the release of spot reports will depend on the public information officer.
"Yes. It (counterchecking) can be done but to give you an actual copy we have to look at our rules, manual and procedures. Kasi 'yung getting a copy of the spot report hindi automatic na may kopya kayo (Getting a copy of the spot report doesn’t mean you automatically have a copy)," he added.
He said that if the requesting party insists on accessing the spot report, he needs a court order or a permit from concerned PNP office.
"The FOI (freedom of information), we address it by your request. Hindi ilalantad at kukunin kaagad (It won’t be revealed and taken immediately) without the proper authority in releasing these documents," he said.
Carlos said another way of getting information from the spot report is to interview the police investigator on the case or its designated spokesperson. (With SunStar Philippines)