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Police general who grabbed GMA reporter’s phone to be probed

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The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday said it would investigate one of its ranking officials who grabbed the mobile phone of a broadcast journalist during the coverage of the Traslacion or the procession of the Black Nazarene.

“Yes, precisely, I am talking about (Southern Police District Director Brig.) Gen. (Nolasco) Bathan. He already admitted that he took the cellphone. I think he said it in a press briefing but all of these things will be assessed,” PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, said in a radio interview.

Gamboa said the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will supervise the case and take the necessary disciplinary measures.

“If there is a need to investigate, then we will investigate. It is within the powers of the NCRPO to take the appropriate disciplinary measures and what to do. He (NCRPO chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas) will recommend to me on what action to take. Even the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government (Eduardo Año) assured the public of that investigation,” he said.

Sought for comment, Año told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that he would order an investigation on the reported police brutality incidents during the Traslacion.

In a Facebook post, GMA news reporter Jun Veneracion alleged that Bathan grabbed his phone and deleted his video.

Included in his post was a video showing policemen dragging a devotee into the ground at the Ayala Bridge at the height of the Traslacion.

However, the phone has a recently deleted folder and the video was not completely erased from it.

NCRPO acting chief, Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, said he directed the NCRPO Internal Affairs Service (IAS) to lead the investigation.

“I received the instruction of (PNP OIC). We will find out the recommendation of the IAS so that it will be impartial for everybody’s concern. So that we may know what transpired,” Sinas told reporters in
a press briefing held at the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Station 10.

Bathan apologized for the incident.

“What happened between me and Mr. Veneracion was somehow a misunderstanding and I again sincerely apologized for my actions. During the procession of the Black Nazarene 2020, wherein I confiscated the cellular phone of the media personality who was later on identified as Mr. Jun Veneracion of GMA-7 thinking that he was someone who poses a threat during the procession,” he told reporters during a press briefing.

Bathan said a commotion erupted between the police officers and a hapless Black Nazarene devotee where Veneracion was covering at the time. Things became uncontrollable when police officers let go of the image’s carriage and the devotees took advantage of the situation to get near it.

“Of course, on the part of the PNP, we still have to maintain the security in the area because the situation (was) very critical at that moment,” he said.

Bathan said also that the reporter accepted his apology.

“It all happened unintentionally. We (were) just securing peace and order in the area,” he added.

Sinas clarified that the devotee who was dragged, as seen in the video, was a leader of the agitators and was guiding them to block the path of the carriage.

The unnamed devotee was freed right after he was restrained, he said.

Despite the controversy, Sinas said this year’s Traslacion was generally peaceful.

During the conduct of the annual procession of the Black Nazarene on Thursday, the police made adjustments in its security measures to ensure peace and order, which dismayed some devotees who were unable to get near and touch the image during the procession.

Many of the devotees were irked and complained about how the policemen conducted their security operation as some of them were hit, sustained injuries, and were accosted.

Gamboa said the policemen were ordered to implement maximum tolerance.

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