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Under the Duterte Administration’s ‘War on Drugs’, the public has seen unprecedented number of anti-drug operations that has resulted in over 5,000 deaths, hundreds of thousands of arrests, and seizures of illegal drugs from drug suspects.

Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, requires witnesses to these anti-drug operations from a representative of the Department of Justice, the media, and an elected public official. 

While this provision has since been amended by Republic Act No. 10640, enacted in 2014, which made witnessing optional between a representative of the National Prosecution Service and the media, colleagues throughout the country report that law enforcement units continue requiring them to sign on as witnesses, often as a condition for being allowed to cover operations. Worse, there are reports that they are made to sign even if they did not actually witness the operation or the inventory of seized items. Those who decline can find their sources or the normal channels of information no longer accessible.

Our opposition to this practice stems from the fact that it unnecessarily places journalists at risk of retaliation from crime syndicates, on the one hand, and also exposes them to prosecution for perjury and other offenses in the event of irregularities in the conduct of anti-drug operations.

We, media organizations and news outfits, call on law enforcement units to immediately end the continued practice of requiring journalists to sign as witnesses to the inventory of contraband and other items seized during anti-drug operations.

And to ensure that this practice is ended once and for all, we urge Congress to craft legislation to this effect.  

We wish to invite the Philippine National Police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to discuss guidelines, ground rules and other procedural issues concerning coverage of their operations. We extend the same invitation to lawmakers to discuss the proposed legislation.