The Philippine National Police (PNP) has issued a memorandum directing all its personnel to use body-worn cameras (BWCs) while serving search or arrest warrants in compliance with the rules set by the Supreme Court, a move seen as a milestone for transparency amid allegations of human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings in the conduct of police operations, especially in the aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.
This, after the Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras in serving arrest and search warrants already took effect after it’s publication.
In the absence of the BWCs, at least two alternative recording devices (ARDs) must be used to ensure transparency in the conduct of the operations.
In a memorandum dated August 2 and issued to police regional directors and heads of the National Operational Support Units which include the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG), it stated that both or either BWC or ARDs must be turned on as soon as the police personnel arrive at the place where the warrants would be served.
“The PNP personnel, having such cameras, shall ensure that they are worn in a conspicuous location and in a manner that maximizes their ability to capture a recording of the arrest,” the memorandum read.
The PNP Chief pointed out that the Memorandum specifies the general protocols on the use of the BWCs or ARDs where the gadgets are never to be turned off at anytime while the execution of a search and arrest warrant or a warrantless arrest is going on.
He said that in cases of valid warrantless arrests, the BWC or ARD will be used as far as it is practicable.
“The memorandum also requires police operatives to, upon return of warrant, submit a copy of the video to the court along with an affidavit attesting to the facts and authenticity of the recording,” Eleazar said.
Not enough BWCs but…
The PNP has procured almost 3,000 BWCs after several days since it was initiated in 2017. The BWCs were delivered early this year and PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar immediately ordered for its distribution, most of them are in Metro Manila while the rest are in various city police stations across the country.
Since the BWCs are limited as Eleazar himself admitted that they need at least 30,000 more BWCs to cover all the police units across the country, the alternative recording devices were mandated to be used.
Eleazar assured that Enhanced Operational Guidelines and Policies on the use of BWCs and ARDs will soon be disseminated to all police offices and units so all police personnel will be guided accordingly on the proper utilization of the devices.
“Ito ay hindi lamang para sa proteksyon ng mga karapatan ng ating mga kababayan kundi proteksyon din ng aming hanay laban sa mga maling haka-haka at alegasyon sa isinasagawa naming operasyon (This is not only for the protection of the rights of the people but also for the protection of our personnel from wrong speculations and allegations),” saidEleazar.
“Hindi sapat ang aming body-worn cameras (Our BWCs are not enough to cover all the police units) but in the spirit of transparency and accountability, I trust that our commanders will find ways to comply with the Supreme Court’s guidelines on the use of body-worn cameras,” he added.
It was the PNP which sought the assistance of the Supreme Court to come up with the rules on the use of BWCs amid legal issues, particularly on the aspect of privacy and the use of video recordings as court evidence.
Early last month, the SC finally released the rules but it required the normal legal process before it would take effect. The last requirement for the rules to take effect was complied late last month after the rules were published.
“Ang inyong PNP ang nagsagawa ng inisyatibo para humingi ng tulong sa Korte Suprema para sa malinaw na alituntunin sa paggamit ng mga body-worn cameras kaya walang dahilan para hindi naming sundin ito (It is your PNP which initiated asking the assistance of the Supreme Court so that the rules on the use of body-worn cameras are clear, so there is no reason why we should not comply),” said Eleazar.
The memorandum stipulated that all recordings from the execution of the warrants shall be stored in an external media storage and will be deposited in a sealed package with the issuing court.
“When death results from the execution of search warrant, an incident report, detailing the search, the reasons why such deaths occurred, the result of related inquest proceedings, if any–including possibly those against the PNP personnel causing the death–together with other relevant documents shall likewise be submitted (to the court,” the memorandum read.