MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine National Police on Monday, June 23, said it will not release the mugshots of prominent suspects in the pork barrel scam but hours after Senator Jinggoy Estrada was committed to Camp Crame, government sources leaked his mugshots to the media.
Only the police and the Sandiganbayan have copies of official mugshots. The mugshot is a requirement in an accused's return of warrant before the order assigning his jail is released.
PNP spokesperson Theodore Sindac told Rappler the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which handles the pork barrel scam arrests, had decided not to release mugshots of prominent suspects they were expecting in the next several days since Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr surrendered on Friday, June 20.
"While it is still a public document, it is a file and, as in any other file, the authority holding it can restrict access when circumstances require us to do so," Sindac said.
This was after journalists inquired with the PNP public information office about the mugshots of Senator Jinggoy Estrada, another senator facing plunder charges, who also surrendered at Camp Crame on Monday, June 23.
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The "rule" cited by Sindac was in stark contrast with the procedure that the police implemented when alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles was turned over to the PNP by no less than the presidential palace in August 2013. Her mugshot was released to the media soon after she was turned over to the custody of the police.
Asked what the difference was between the cases of Napoles and the two senators, Sindac admitted that they don't have a "clear-cut policy" on the release of mugshots.
"We are aware that there are people looking for the mugshot. But it is not our obligation to release it. As I've said, we realized there is no clear-cut policy on this. But as in any other public document, the release of the information is subject to the authority that will release it. If the CIDG gives us clearance to release it, then we would release it," Sindac told Rappler.
When Estrada turned himself in to the police on Monday, the PNP released a photo of the senator with his father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, being received by CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong instead of a mugshot.
Mugshots submitted to Sandiganbayan
Sindac said the CIDG submitted the mugshots directly to Sandiganbayan for the return of warrant without releasing them to the public.
Police also did not release Revilla's mugshot last Friday, but they distributed a series of photos showing the booking process that the senator went through before being detained at the custodial center in Camp Crame. One of the photos showed Revilla as his mugshot was being taken.
Estrada, for his part, had specifically requested not to have photos of his booking process taken, Sindac said.
His camp also opposed the release of his mugshot, his lawyer Alexis Abastillas, told reporters.
"Dapat hindi talaga ilabas ang mugshot niya. That is an irregular procedure and a violation of the rights of the accused. Kaya nga bawal ang cellphone sa loob. Kung ikaw ba, gusto mo ilabas ang mugshot mo?" Abastillas said.
(They really should not release the mugshot. That is an irregular procedure and a violation of the rights of the accused. That's why cellphones are not allowed inside. If you were in his position, would you want your mugshot to be released?)
Sindac said the PNP believes that his refusal to be photographed while being processed was well within the senator's right to privacy.
"Unfortunately, in this particular case, after the Bong Revilla experience, CIDG told us that the lawyers manifested that they did not want to have his photos taken, which is well within the right to privacy because even if they are in custody, it is still our job to protect their basic civil rights. They have the right to keep it private to themselves," Sindac said.
Earlier, Senator Estrada's camp said he thanked the PNP for "treating him with dignity." – Rappler.com