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‘Drop complaint against Bicolano radio reporter’ — PTFoMS

Controversial Iriga City police chief relieved from post

THE Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) called on the relieved chief of police of Iriga City to drop the charges it filed against a veteran local radio reporter to help smoothen the strained relationship between the police and the members of the press in the Bicol region.

“As part of the ‘healing process,’ so to speak, the best way forward is for P/Lt. Colonel Ralph Jason Vela Cruz Oida to drop the case against Radyo Natin reporter and DZRH Bicol correspondent, Jose Rizal ‘Jorez’ Pajarez,” said PTFoMS Executive Director Paul M. Gutierrez.

On Friday, August 11, 2023, members of the Bicol Press Club (BPC) and the Camarines Sur Press Club (CSPC) held a joint press conference where they deplored the “aggressive behavior” and “undue aggression” displayed by Oida immediately ordering the arrest and detention of Pajarez last August 2, 2023, for alleged violation of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 when he tried to take a look at the Iriga City police blotter without first seeking the approval of Oida.

Pajarez was detained by the police until he managed to post bail last August 4, 2023 but his experience was not made public until August 9.

In a statement on that day, the Bicol Regional Police Office (PRO-5) under P/BGen. Wesrimundo Obinque, justified the action of Oida, citing the provisions of Memorandum Circular 37, series of 2020 of the Philippine National Police.

The circular, issued in compliance with the Data Privacy Act, has classified the content of the police blotter as ‘confidential’ while agreeing that it is a ‘public document.’

The PTFoMS said this ‘grey area’ in the PNP circular needs to be clarified as the arrest of Pajarez would set an alarming precedent that can lead to the arrest of other members of the press covering the police beat.

“We would like to note that under Section 4d, personal information processed for journalistic, artistic, literary and research purposes are among the data not considered as confidential under RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act and its implementing rules and regulations.

“But somehow, this exemption was not stipulated under the PNP circular,” Gutierrez said.

The PTFoMS said it hopes to clarify the issue with the PNP during the task force’s scheduled meeting in Malacañan this coming August 16. “At the end of the day, we hope to get a unified position on this issue and remove one irritant in the relationship between the PNP and the members of the press,” Gutierrez added.

Gutierrez also said he welcomed the decision of Camarines Sur police director, P/Col. Julius Caesar Domingo to relieve Oida from his post effective August 10, while a deeper probe of the incident is ongoing.

The removal of Oida was allegedly ordered by Obinque who said he was unaware of Oida’s decision, said Ruel Saldico, BPC president, in a report to the PTFoMS.

“The relief of Oida and a deeper probe of the incident as called for by the Bicol Press Club should be seen as a welcome move by the Bicol Police Office to help smoothen its strained relationship with the local press,” Gutierrez said.

A news report from August 2, 2008 by ABS-CBN disclosed it would not be the first time that Oida got embroiled in a controversy.

According to the report, Oida, then a police inspector, was arrested by his colleagues after shooting to death his superior, P/Major Wilson Perez, then the police chief of Labo, Camarines Sur, 2 days earlier.

The report said Oida shot Perez multiple times after they quarreled while engaged in a drinking session at a local restaurant in the town of Daet, Camarines Norte.

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