by ALEX P. VIDAL
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” HELEN KELLER
The friendship or “good working relationship” forged by some members of law enforcement agency and media practitioners dates back during the time when publishers and (radio) station managers assigned reporters to cover the police and military beats.
The purpose of deploying beat reporters is for the newspaper, radio and TV stations to get accurate, objective and independent stories as fast as possible.
Like a man and a woman who develop and become lovers because of frequent meetings in workplace, some law enforcers and beat reporters cultivate a strong bonding during and after office or duty hours.
Beat reporters and law enforcers compliment each other. Friendly lawmen making life easy for beat reporters by giving them easy access to crime stories that make earthshaking headlines. Big stories that will earn for enterprising beat reporters credit to their editors and publishers and station managers.
Friendly beat reporters helping some law enforcers earn pogi points for promotion and good public image by highlighting their achievements in prime time news and front-page stories.
But there are cases when this law enforcer-beat reporter develop platonic love-like union, an aberration rather than a source of pride and inspiration for both parties. When they engage in cover-ups--some beat reporters in cahoots in irregularities or abuses perpetrated by their friends in uniform; law enforcers tolerating the misconduct of beat reporters; when both the law enforcer and beat reporter engage in unholy alliance to violate the law and commit a travesty of justice.
At the Iloilo City Police Office, I once knew of one radioman whose notoriety as “fixer” was known even to his colleagues and other police officials. He was actually a volunteer “beat” reporter for one radio station and did not have any salary. His regular presence in the Police Precinct 1 would make some people suspect he was a civilian agent or employee of the station.
Among his modus operandi was to act as “negotiator” or “fixer” of cases involving moneyed characters mostly accused of rape and other crimes that require imprisonment for the culprits. He acted as “runner” for corrupt prosecutors in the Hall of Justice, corrupt investigators, victims, and the suspects. An Indian national escaped imprisonment after the radioman-cum-fixer managed to convince the family of a 16-year-old female rape victim to drop the complaint in exchange for a large amount of cash. Everyone was, of course, “happy” including the corrupt lawyer who represented the victim.
The case of former police superintendent Cesar Mancao is one example of how effective and useful is the friendship between law enforcers and mediamen. While agents of the National Bureau of Investigation are agonizing to track down the elusive fugitive, journalists were able to freely conduct interviews with him in a hideout.
They continued to have direct communications with him despite his difficult situation. Mancao trusted the journalists, who helped him air his grievances in public.
Mancao definitely has developed friendship with some journalists when he was active in police service. They would never reveal his whereabouts. A good example of the adage that says, “Be good to people on your way up because you will meet the same people on your way down.” /MP