New PNP policy on access to police blotters

Various sectors are up in arms over a new policy laid down by PNP chief Jesus Verzosa regarding access to police blotters.

In an Oct. 20 memorandum, Verzosa banned media and public access to blotters unless allowed by the station commander or by a court order. The PNP claims the new policy is in consideration of requests made by victims of crimes.

What is this thing called “police blotter”?  The police blotter is a daily record of incidents such as arrests and crimes that were made or acted on by police officers. All police stations have blotters. When we go to a police station to report incidents, they are recorded in the police blotter. The New York University’s Journalism Handbook describes it as “an obvious source that is publicly available”.

Everyday, journalists pore over police blotters for crimes and other incidents that need reporting. It is a truly normal source of information. Not exclusive source, because some of the information you get there are still “raw”,  but at the very least you get to view a listing of all the crimes that have happened that were noted by or reported to a police station.

Read this post by UP journalism Prof. Danny Arao for more about the police blotter.

Journalists are up in arms over the new PNP order. Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said:

The PNP circular denying media access to police blotters is ill-advised and should be rescinded immediately.

A police blotter is public record and should, thus, be made available immediately upon request not just to media but to every lawful citizen of this country.

Requiring a court order or the approval of a police commander before being allowed access to the blotter is patently illegal as it is a clear violation of the constitutional right to access to information.

We understand and appreciate Director General Jesus Verzosa’s wish to make the PNP more sensitive to and respectful of human rights, as he did in stopping the practice of parading suspects in public.

In this case, however, we believe he is overzealous and urge him to immediately rectify the situation.

Senator Bong Revilla broke his usual silence and spoke in his capacity as chair of the Senate committee on mass media:

Clearly, the directive of the chief of the [PNP] on prohibiting media access to police blotter is wrong. I don’t see any logic behind the memorandum.

Vowing to hold public hearings on the new PNP policy, Revilla added that:

The police blotter is a public document, which is why it is natural that it be open to the public, especially to the media

The Commission on Human Rights also said that the ban violates the public’s right to information.

The National Press Club said:

Banning mediamen from checking the blotter smacks of media repression. It has never been done before not even during the repressive martial law

The new PNP policy is so atrocious that even Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez considers it stupid and dangerous.

Even Malacanang is surprised.

Later, the PNP came out with a hare-brained idea of coming out with two types of blotter: a confidential blotter and a public blotter. Who knows what kinda crap the PNP will put in those so-called public blotters when for all we know, the real details of the cases and incidents will instead be put in the confidental blotters?

Now, let’s see what happens whether the big boss of the police, which is the President no less, would rescind the order of her newly-appointed top cop.