Philippines police could face charges for detaining journalists

MANILA, September 1, 2008 (AFP) – Philippine police officers who crushed a right-wing military revolt last year could face criminal charges for detaining journalists covering it, the head of the independent human rights commission said Monday.

The commission ruled that the brief detention of journalists covering the story was arbitrary and violated their constitutional right to report events of public interest.

The body would ask the justice department to look into the possibility of filing charges against the police commanders on the ground during the November 2007 standoff at the Manila Peninsula hotel, said the commission head Leila de Lima.

She did not name the officers.

Police using an armoured personnel carrier smashed through the front doors of the five star hotel hours after it was taken over by a small group of armed military rebels demanding President Gloria Arroyo’s resignation.

Journalists who covered the story were later detained for questioning, but freed without charges.

Police at the time said they wanted to make sure they were not rebels masquerading as reporters.

“The commission had found that there had been no basis to justify detaining and the processing of media,” de Lima said.