To ensure transparency and legitimacy of its operations, the Philippine National Police (PNP) finally began using body-worn cameras (BWCs) on Friday, June 4, nearly four years after teenager Kian Lloyd delos Santos died of police abuse in Caloocan City in 2017.
The killing of the minor shook President Duterte’s war against illegal drugs so much that transparency in police activities was sought by multiple sectors.
PNP Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the use of BWCs will provide documentation on police works.
“The procurement and [eventual] use of body-worn camera system[s] is a tribute not only to Kian delos Santos who died of police abuse in Caloocan City but also to the policemen whose ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty were tainted by claims of extra-judicial killings, planting of evidence, and other unfair allegations,” Eleazar said during a launch program at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Eleazar said the BWCs will ensure that cops will follow the Police Operating Procedures as well as observe the human rights of the suspects during the operations. It will also serve to “protect” police against “malicious and erroneous accusations,” he added.
According to Eleazar, a total of 2,696 BWCs have already been distributed by the PNP to 171 police units. However, the PNP needs a total of 34,000 units of BWCs to equip hundreds of local police stations in 17 police regional offices (PROs) nationwide.
Some 8,000 police officers were supposed to be trained for the use of BWCs but only 623 personnel have been trained by the PNP so far.
The BWCs can record eight hours worth of footage non-stop. If the stored data will not be used in any investigation, it will be deleted within 30 days, Eleazar said.
He noted that the BWCs are tamper-proof and cannot be manually turned off by the policemen wearing them.
“The cameras capture real-time events and these are recorded in our central database. More importantly, footage taken through the BWCs cannot be erased easily as they are only accessible at the PNP Command Center,” he said.
Eleazar added that the BWC System, which is in line with the S.M.A.R.T. (Secured, Mobile, Artificial-Intelligence driven, Real time Technology) Policing initiative of the PNP, allows the PNP Command Center to monitor the actual police operations of all units nationwide.
“The BWC will not only satisfy the requirement of transparency in police operations but, more importantly, capture real-life actions for their evidentiary value in investigation and prosecution,” he said.
However, Eleazar admitted that the protocols for the use of BWCs are still being finalized as they have to wait for the guidelines from the Supreme Court (SC). This is because BWC use entails concerns on data privacy.
“Hindi pa namin na-finalize ‘yong official na protocol but we can work even without that naman eh kasi puwede naman kami magbigay ng direktiba based on our memo and verbal instructions (We have yet to finalize the official protocol but we can work even without that because we can give directives based on our memo and verbal instructions),” he said.
He expressed his gratitude to the past PNP chiefs–specifically, the now-Senator Ronald dela Rosa who initiated the review for the procurement of the body cameras; and his predecessor, retired Gen. Debold Sinas, who signed the final papers for its delivery.
Eleazar also thanked the SC for continuously assisting the PNP in the ongoing preparation of the guidelines for the presentation of the BWC data as court evidence.
The BWCs are expected to be used in anti-illegal drug operations except where police operatives act as poseur buyers and perform test-buys; service of search warrant and warrant of arrest; hostage rescue operations; high risk check/chokepoint operations; security operations during the implementation of decision/orders of the court, and quasi-judicial or administrative bodies; and security coverage during major events such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings, Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, State of the Nation Address (SONA), national and local elections, and festivals, among others.
“To those who would be lucky to use this body-worn camera system, I encourage you to do your best and show that every single centavo spent from the taxes of our kababayan is spent wisely,” Eleazar said.
In 2017, the PNP announced that it would purchase BWCs to promote transparency in its operations after policemen killed 17-year-old Delos Santos in an alleged drug operation in Caloocan on Aug. 16, 2017.
Caloocan police claimed Delos Santos was a drug personality but the court later found out that the cops were lying.
Three cops were convicted of murdering Delos Santos. Sentenced to life imprisonment without parole were police officers Arnel Oares, Jeremiah Pereda, and Jerwin Cruz.