This is something we missed and we must thank Raissa Robles for making us take note of it.
On Sept. 9, per her blog article, Ms. Robles “heard National Police Commission vice chairman Eduardo Escueta ask netizens to please snap photos of ongoing crimes or suspicious activities and post these on the Internet.”
This was after that famous photo taken by a netizen became the talk of the country—or as they say “went viral” when he posted it on the Internet for the whole world to see. It was supposed to have caught in the act two rogue policemen doing highway robbery. They were accused of being members of a nine-man police gang of criminals.
As a result of that netizen’s photo, the two cops have been suspended—or are said to have been sacked. Other rogue cops that the good eggs in the PNP, who have always known these colleagues of theirs to be criminals preying on innocent ordinary citizens, have come to grief.
“Now the Napolcom—the police force’s disciplinary agency—wants netizens to help fight crime if they happen to witness one,” writes Ms. Robles. But she thinks “This is very dangerous. Napolcom has to issue a memorandum circular first to the entire national police force telling them that they cannot object when private citizens—not just journalists—snap photos of them in public areas.”
She is absolutely correct.
So many rogue cops have manhandled journalists—and plain citizens—taking their pictures.
Ms. Robles reminds us that “some policemen have this mistaken but very dangerous notion that it is a ‘crime’ for the public to take photos of policemen.”
She recounts “two close encounters with such policemen—one incident happened only last June. The other one several years ago. In both instances, the police officers told me to stop taking photographs of them because it was ‘bawal’ (prohibited).”
“The first incident took place several years ago when I snapped a photo of a police officer emerging from an establishment that had already been shut down on orders of the Quezon City government yet continued operating. The officer—who was tagged as one of the ‘protectors’ who enabled the establishment to stay open—was not in uniform but he told me he was a police officer and that I was banned from snapping photos of him.
“I told him I was a journalist and I was standing on the sidewalk and he was also on the sidewalk, and the sidewalk was a public area and therefore he was in a public place and therefore as a journalist I could take photos of him.
“All the while, I was warily eyeing the clutch bag he was carrying. I entertained the notion of demanding that he open his clutch bag because I suspected he was carrying a gun furtively. But armed only with a camera, I decided not to.
“Fortunately, people passing by stopped to take a look at why we were arguing heatedly. And he stalked away.”
The second encounter happened on June 6 this year. The cop had flagged down Ms. Robles’ taxi because the driver, to beat the traffic, ended up being on the wrong lane. The driver was obviously bent on doing the usual, slip a bribe to the cop. Ms. Robles decided to turn on her cell phone camera to record what the cop would do–take the bribe or give the driver a ticket. This was obviously a good cop. Manila policeman Galoso was “writing out a traffic citation ticket” when he noticed Ms. Robles taking his photo.
“He suddenly snapped at me and said—‘.’
“I told him ‘hindi bawal. Public place ito.’
He got madder when Ms. Robles said ‘this is really funny’ and he said he wanted to take her to the precinct. He only relented when she told him she was journalist and would write in praise of him for “writing out a ticket instead of accepting a bribe.” That calmed Officer Galoso down.
Yes, it’s a good idea that the Napolcom seeks public cooperation in exposing rogue cops. But it must officially tell the PNP rank and file that from now on ordinary people with cell phone cameras are informal deputies of the force.