Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Law enforcers agree with CCPC panel’s standards in identifying crime suspects

September 4th, 2006 · No Comments

Top law enforcement officials last Aug. 31, 2006 said they will not require crime suspects to carry cards identifying them as suspects when they are presented to the media.

Crime suspects will still be handcuffed for safety of journalists and other persons present but their hands will be at the back, not in front.

It is more humane and considers that crime suspects still enjoy the presumption of innocence, the officials said.

The law enforcers were NBI Regional Director Medardo de Lemos, region police deputy chief for administration Ronald Roderos, province police chief Vicente Loot, and Cebu City police chief Melvin Gayotin.

Guests

With Commission on Human Rights Director Alejandro Alonzo, the heads of the NBI and police in Cebu City, Cebu Province and Central Visayas region were guests at a roundtable discussion initiated by the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC).

They met with members of the CCPC committee led by CCPC member Mayette Q. Tabada of UP in the Visayas Cebu College who presented the committee’s proposed standards on describing or identifying crime suspects for the law enforcers’ comment.

Standards

The law enforcers agreed in principle with the proposed standards which are addressed to media and the authorities.

Journalists present, including CCPC acting executive director Pachico A. Seares and Philippine Press Institute (PPI) trustee Juan L. Mercado, agreed that editors must also do their part in enforcing the standards.

It was Mercado who raised to CCPC the issue of erroneous identification of persons in police and NBI custody. If adopted by CCPC during its annual and en banc meeting on Sept. 20, the standards will guide news coverage of police reporters.

The standards encourage media and the authorities: (1) to be cautious in identifying the crime suspect or attributing guilt if the information available is not accurate or verifiable to a high degree; (2) to refrain from describing a crime suspect by race, religion, or ethnic background unless the information is important to the report or for law enforcement; and (3) to be cautious in releasing personal information not directly related to the case or not yet verified, especially if it injures further the crime suspect’s, victim’s, or any other person’s reputation.

In the same meeting, the law enforcers also agreed to take these steps: 1) Have investigators determine the age of the offender or victim to help guide journalists in the handling of the story; 2) Confer among themselves on how to implement, on the side of law enforcement, the CCPC standards.

Effort hailed

PPI’s Mercado hailed the effort of the journalism community and the positive response of law enforcers to adopt international standards in the handling of crime suspects.

Another member of the CCPC committee who attended the discussion at the Rajah Park Hotel was Joy Tumulak, president of the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists (CFBJ).

Observers included news reporters Oscar C. Pineda of Sun.Star, Chito Aragon of dyLA and Cebu Daily News, and Edwin Melencio of The Freeman.

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