A leader of the House of Representatives on Saturday proposed to amend the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 to spare journalists from getting involved in documenting drug cases and participating in subsequent court hearings.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the present law requires media practitioners who accompany law enforcers in their anti-illegal drug operations to sign the inventory of confiscated items.
“They are also required to testify as witnesses during the hearings of these cases,” he said.
He said it is not the job of media to be involved in documenting drug operations and testifying in hearings.
“They are there to cover law enforcement activities, not to participate in the documentation and subsequently in hearings,” said Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments.
He said the requirement puts journalists at risk since it is not a remote possibility that the accused might get back at them for testifying in their cases.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has been lobbying with Congress to remove such requirements by amending the law.
Rodriguez has introduced an amendatory bill scrapping the participation of media practitioners in drug operations and cases.
The proposed amendment provides that members of the media “shall be invited to join/cover anti-drug operations of the government for journalism purposes only.”
“They shall not be required, coerced or intimidated to sign the inventory of seized items, nor shall they be called as witnesses in any court proceeding in relation to the anti-drug operations they covered. Mere mention of the reporter’s name during the hearing should not be a group for the court to subpoena said reporter,” read the proposed amendment.
It also provides that “details and facts about the operation should not be used as a condition for the reporter to sign the inventory.”
Rodriguez said there are enough public officers like participating law enforcers, prosecutors and barangay officials who could attest to the inventory of seized contraband in drug operations and testify in hearings.
“We should not burden our journalists with that. It’s not part of their job,” he said.