Año: Generals should never snatch cell phones. Period.

MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Friday, January 10, that the police Brigadier General Nolasco Bathan, the Southern Police District (SPD) chief should not have snatched a phone, regardless if he took it from GMA News reporter Jun Veneracion or an ordinary citizen.

"He shouldn't have done that even if that person wasn't Jun Veneracion. Even if he was just an ordinary person, you can't just get and snatch a phone. That shouldn't be done by a police officer," Año told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino in Baguio City. A video of the interview was posted by GMA News.

Why this matters: The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has administrative power over the police, and Año's task has been emphasized by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte to clean up the police force.

The police, as law enforcers, have been briefed about human rights and the law, and one of the universally declared human rights is the right against arbitrary seizure of one's property. Theft and robbery are also criminal offenses that are invoked against persons who take other people's properties without permission.

Bathan's defense: Año's statement strikes at the heart of Bathan's defense for taking Veneracion's phone. The police general reasoned in a Friday press briefing that he only took away Veneracion's phone because he thought that the reporter was a devotee who "possessed threat." He did not elaborate how Veneracion appeared to be dangerous during the incident.

What is clear, as recorded by Veneracion's phone, was that Bathan took the phone, then was heard asking another cop to delete the video. Contrary to his own claim that he did not recognize him, he was heard cursing Veneracion's name, saying, "Burahin mo, burahin mo. Kuha ni Jun Veneracion. P*tangina nagku-kwan eh (Delete it, delete it! It’s Jun Veneracion’s video. Son of a bitch, he’s meddling)."

Bathan investigated: Bathan has since apologized to Veneracion. He said that he was "tired" and "it was chaotic" when he seized it during the Traslacion on January 9. During the Friday briefing, Metro Manila police chief Brigadier General Debold Sinas emphasized that it was not their policy to snatch reporter's phones on coverages.

The PNP has launched an investigation against the general, but stopped short of relieving Bathan to ensure an impartial investigation. Año said he would see to it that the proper sanctions would be imposed. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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