A television journalist covering yesterday’s Traslación accused a senior member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) of stealing his phone and deleting footage that show several cops manhandling and subduing a devotee.
GMA News anchor Jun Veneracion posted about the incident during the Black Nazarene procession on his Facebook account yesterday.
“While taking footage on my phone of a commotion between cops and a hapless Black Nazarene devotee on Ayala Bridge in Manila, a police general suddenly darted out of nowhere and snatched my mobile unit. He quickly moved away from the scene,” Veneracion wrote, recalling the incident.
“I was accosted by another police officer, preventing me from going after the police official who took away my phone; didn’t get his name and could no longer remember his face. But one thing stood out: I saw a star on his shoulders. Minutes later, a group of photo journalists called my attention and pointed to a PNP official. ‘That’s him,’ they said.”
The man who allegedly stole Veneracion’s phone was one of the district commanders of the National Capital Region Police Office, Brig. Gen. Nolasco Bathan.
Veneracion said he then asked Bathan, “Why did you take my phone, sir?”
Bathan, Veneracion alleged, was “fuming mad” and even threatened to take the journalist’s hand-held radio, at which point Veneracion decided to leave to let the general cool off.
A few minutes later, he again approached Bathan again, who appeared to have calmed down. Bathan allegedly told him, “I’m sorry Jun, I didn’t recognize you,” then gave him back his cell phone.
Veneracion checked his phone and noticed that the video showing the police choking the devotee had been deleted. He then asked Bathan, “Why was my video deleted, sir?”
Bathan replied, “I did not erase anything from that, as the Black Nazarene is my witness.”
Veneracion left Bathan and managed to recover the video by checking his iPhone’s “Recently Deleted Photo Album,” section. At the end of the video, which was uploaded to Facebook, a voice can be heard, allegedly Bathan’s, telling another person, “That video that was taken by Jun Veneracion, erase it.”
Veneracion said he had already reported the incident to Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, according to GMA News Online. Año said he will have the incident investigated.
The DILG is the body tasked with managing the country’s police force.
Meanwhile, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said Bathan had already admitted to taking Veneracion’s phone, and that authorities will investigate the incident. However, he defended his man, chalking his actions up to security measures.
Veneracion, a veteran GMA reporter, is best known for his coverage of the dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea.
The Traslación is an annual procession of a statue of the Black Nazarene through Manila that attracts hundreds of thousands of participants. Originally from Mexico, the Black Nazarene (or “Poong Nazareno“) was carved by an unknown sculptor and arrived in the Philippines in 1606. Its devotees believe that their wishes will be granted if they touch it, which has led to stampedes in the past as people clamor to reach the icon.