Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pwning Pagdilao

After feeling like a headless chicken last night, I think I can breathe for the moment (at least just for the night) and blog.

I was watching a replay of Media in Focus last Thursday. The issue, of course, was the arrest of journalists and media practitioners who were covering the Nov. 29 incident involving Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim. The guests were: Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Rey Hulog, police spokesman Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao, constitutional professor Edwin Lacierda, and veteran journalists Rachel Khan, Gil Santos, and Dana Batnag.

And boy, was Pagdilao pwned! (especially by Atty. Lacierda.) My unsolicited advice to Chief Superintendent Pagdilao: Sir, the next time you defend the arrest of journalists and media practitioners last Nov. 29, make sure you actually cite and explain the constitutional and legal provisions justifying the arrest, especially when you're with a lawyer with the likes of Atty. Lacierda. Don't just say that the the arrest was done in accordance with the law.

Atty. Lacierda said the arrest of journalists/media practitioners was warrantless and illegal. Journalists and media practitioners who were covering what happened, Lacierda said, did not commit any of the nine instances involving obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree No. 1829.

I looked up PD 1829, and below are the nine instances:

(a) preventing witnesses from testifying in any criminal proceeding or from reporting the commission of any offense or the identity of any offender/s by means of bribery, misrepresentation, deceit, intimidation, force or threats;

(b) altering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document, or object, with intent to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility as evidence in any investigation of or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or to be used in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(c) harboring or concealing, or facilitating the escape of, any person he knows, or has reasonable ground to believe or suspect, has committed any offense under existing penal laws in order to prevent his arrest prosecution and conviction;

(d) publicly using a fictitious name for the purpose of concealing a crime, evading prosecution or the execution of a judgment, or concealing his true name and other personal circumstances for the same purpose or purposes;

(e) delaying the prosecution of criminal cases by obstructing the service of process or court orders or disturbing proceedings in the fiscal's offices, in Tanodbayan, or in the courts;

(f) making, presenting or using any record, document, paper or object with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(g) soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept any benefit in consideration of abstaining from, discounting, or impeding the prosecution of a criminal offender;

(h) threatening directly or indirectly another with the infliction of any wrong upon his person, honor or property or that of any immediate member or members of his family in order to prevent such person from appearing in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or imposing a condition, whether lawful or unlawful, in order to prevent a person from appearing in the investigation of or in official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(i) giving of false or fabricated information to mislead or prevent the law enforcement agencies from apprehending the offender or from protecting the life or property of the victim; or fabricating information from the data gathered in confidence by investigating authorities for purposes of background information and not for publication and publishing or disseminating the same to mislead the investigator or to the court.

A lawyer-blogger, Punzi wrote: "This crime does not involve preventing Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and other justices from arriving at their respective destinations, as the offense suggests." He cited Section 1 of PD 1829 which states: "The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases." In short, a person who commits any of the nine instances above is guilty of obstruction of justice.

Punzi also cited examples for the nine instances each:

1. Telling a witness that the hearing where he will be called will be held on 17 July 2005. The witness did not know that this falls on a Sunday and that the hearing will actually be held on 18 July 2005.

2. To CSI fans, corrupting or destroying cricial evidence.

3. Hiding or providing a safe house for known fellons.

4. Publicly changing one's name from "Malu Hwang" to "Nalu Hwang" to evade a sentence imposed upon Malu.

5. Using bomb threats to delay proceeding in court, prosecutors and the Office of the Ombudsman.

6. Surreptitiously inserting or substituting original specimens of signatures in any investigation or judicial proceeding so that it would match the signature of an impostor (sounds familiar, Mr. Nipa Hut?)

7. A police office taking a bribe for not appearing as a prosecution witness in a case he handled and brought to court.

8. Making death threats on a person to prevent him from appearing as a witness to a case.

9. An informant misleading investigating police officers by giving false leads or tips.

What did the journalists and media practitioners do that resulted in obstruction of justice, tell me?

What was also irritating during the Media in Focus episode was when Pagdilao said that journalists also committed violations of the Journalists' Code of Ethics (original and expanded version). What was was he talking about? Of course, he didn't cite any.

More importantly: Who is he to tell the press about journalism ethics? What, after the Nov. 29 incident, Pagdilao has suddenly become an ethics guru?

For his own sake, Pagdilao should refrain from talking about ethical violations allegedly committed by the press last Nov. 29. What he should do instead, apart from reading the Constitution, is to conduct an internal probe to check if the arresting officers last Nov. 29 followed the standard operating procedures and review how they handle similar incidents in the future. He said in Media in Focus that the police is doing an internal review. That's fine. But please, don't check if the press committed any ethical violation, as it is not your area of expertise. Instead, check if the police did not commit any violation, legal or otherwise.

I find it strange every time a government, police, or a military official, especially those without any inkling about the dynamics and ethics of the journalism profession, points out the ethical and professional malpractices of the press. Any journalist in his/her right sense of mind would allow him/herself to be lectured upon, especially by the government, on what they should do. Certainly not me.

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