I was on my FX ride home an hour past midnight last November 24 when we passed by several police vehicles surrounding a lifeless body inside a cordoned area in front of a UCPB branch near Ever Commonwealth in Quezon City.
(Unless you live in a cave, you know that this has become a familiar scene since President Rodrigo Duterte took office and ordered all law enforcers to implement Oplan Tokhang, his administration’s all-out War on Drugs.)
It’s already very late, but my journalism instinct prevailed upon me. Hence, I decided to alight and walk to the crime scene. Upon reaching the spot, I noticed that there weren’t any media persons yet in the area. I, a teacher and a news blogger, decided to take photos of the cordoned area. That’s when things got scary.
After I did that, a male police officer approached me and asked, “Sino ka ba?” (“Who are you?”) I introduced myself as a teacher from the area, and he yelled in response, “Wala akong pakialam kung teacher ka! Burahin mo yan!” (I don’t give a damn who you are! Delete those!)
I challenged him by asking what particular legal provision I violated. “Bakit po bawal e public place naman ito?” (Why is it not allowed when this is a public place?) I asked. He then angrily responded, “Hindi ito public place! Crime scene ito!” That’s when I tried to run but he grabbed my arm, perhaps with the intention of getting my phone.
The police officer then asked his colleagues to come over, probably to intimidate me further. One female officer talked to me and said in a subdued voice that I really need to delete the photos. Since I was alone and clearly outnumbered, I relented. I deleted the photos in front of them.
I did it not because I realized I was wrong, but because I feared for my life during that moment. They can just shoot me dead on the spot. There were onlookers from afar but no one can possibly help me had anything happened. After I deleted the photos, I hailed a cab and reached home with my heart racing. The driver told me that the dead man was a jeepney barker in the area. He was shot nine times.
At this point, I want to reiterate two key points. Number one, throughout the incident, I never entered the cordoned area. Secondly, the police officer’s declaration to me that it is prohibited to take photos turned out to be a lie because an hour after I went to the area, a reporter from ABS-CBN took a photo of the crime scene and was in fact able to post it on Twitter.
(I originally posted this narrative on my Facebook account: see here and here. Shortly after I published it, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III as well as Nonoy Espina, president of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, asked if I’ll be willing to submit a formal complaint regarding the incident.
I decided against doing so. First, it can potentially disrupt my family’s private life. Also, those police officers are technically employees too of the Quezon City government just like me since I am a public school teacher here.)