CCPC asks Congress to scrap 'media' from witnesses to inventory of seized illegal drugs

CCPC asks Congress to scrap 'media' from witnesses to inventory of seized illegal drugs

THE Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) has long stood for removal of "media" from the list in the law that requires witnesses to the inventory of illegal drugs confiscated in a police operation. The practice carries risk to the safety of journalists and being isolated, for those who shun signing inventories, from their police sources.

[1] Thus, CCPC supports the amendment proposed by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs on Republic Act #9165, specifically under #(1), section 21, regarding "custody and disposition" of dangerous drugs.

The committee proposal requires the inventory to be signed by -- in addition to the person from whom the illegal drugs were seized or his counsel -- as witnesses, "an elected public official OR a DULY DESIGNATED representative of the National Prosecution Service who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof..."

While Dangerous Drugs Law (RA #9165 2002) was earlier amended RA 10649 of 2013 to limit the witnesses to an elected official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service "or the media," that would still allow law enforcers to pick "media," which news reporters respond to willingly or under some kind of coercion. Therefore, delete "media" from the law.

[] The last paragraph of #1 under the same section 21, proposes the amendment that "MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA MAY BE INVITED TO JOIN/COVER ANTI-DRUG OPERATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR JOURNALISM PURPOSES ONLY. DETAILS AND FACTS ABOUT THE OPERATION SHOULD NOT BE USED AS CONDITION FOR THE REPORTER TO SIGN THE INVENTORY."

Deletion of "media" from the list of inventory signatories, per the proposed amendment, has made the above additional proposal unnecessary.

Imbedding or joining of reporters may well be left solely to (a) police plans and rules for a police operation and (b) willingness of the news organization or individual reporter to join and take the risk of a police raid or encounter. Most news organizations and journalists may be content with getting and reviewing the details after the fact. And police may choose, for the operation's success, not to have the media present.

Atty. Pachico A. Seares

Executive director, CCPC

Atty. Elias L. Espinoza

President, Cemla (Cebu Media Legal Aid)

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