One sorry too many

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos on Sunday apologized to members of the media over the “surprise visits” of plainclothes policemen to the homes of journalists.

Just like Metro Manila cop chief P/Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, who was the first in government to apologize over the same issue, Abalos explained that the intention of the visits was to ensure the safety of journalists.

For Estomo and Abalos, the intent was good but the execution left a lot to be desired as the visits were unannounced and were conducted by the policemen not wearing their uniforms.

For some in the media, the visits had a chilling effect such that they did not know how their addresses were known by the police and why there was a need for the cops to interview them at home.

Police concern over the safety of journalists came on the heels of the cold-blooded killing of hard-hitting broadcaster Percival Mabasa, otherwise known as Percy Lapid, the second journalist killed under the Marcos administration.

The apologies of Abalos and Estomo should lay to rest this matter especially as they have vowed to order their personnel to reach out to journalists in less threatening ways like by contacting their news organizations.

Unannounced visits are also par for the course for journalists in going to the offices or homes of news sources to ask questions after properly identifying themselves.

If the plainclothes policemen who undertook the visitations did not identify themselves in trying to talk to the journalists, then they should be reprimanded at the very least.

But then, if the cops did identify themselves by showing their badges or PNP IDs, then this may be a case being blown out of proportion.

Journalists and cops are known to go incognito when doing investigative work, but not when doing simple interviews like in determining threats to members of the media.

As for police officers knowing the addresses of journalists, that’s not surprising at all because law enforcement agents are supposed to have the investigative skills to know something as basic as somebody’s address.

A bigger issue would be if policemen or, say agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, cannot even ferret out simple information about people they want to reach out to, especially when most people these days have laid bare their souls, their vulnerabilities — and yes, their addresses, on social media.

By all means, the police should talk to members of the media and to all people who are facing threats with the end view of making them harder targets for criminals or to pre-empt attacks by prosecuting those making such threats.

As Abalos has pointed out, the police had been forced to seek journalists at their homes because many are not even attending meetings that the PNP had set up to address the threats.

At the end of the day, getting threats come with the journalistic territory as the job entails getting the ire of oftentimes powerful people whose wrongdoings are being exposed by the Fourth Estate.

Protecting one’s self, whether for journalists or police officers who are both targets of assassins, is ultimately the responsibility of each person. This holds true for all people and all kinds of dangers that we face like the simple act of crossing the street.

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