PNP begins using body cameras in a bid to prevent possible abuses

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Photo courtesy: Philippine National Police

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) – Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel are now wearing body cameras during operations.

The PNP is hoping the program will lead to less abuses by some police officers on the ground.

"Today the Filipino people will finally have the eyes and ears in law enforcement and in the implementation of peace and order in the country," PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar said in a press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City Friday morning.

Eleazar also said the policy is a 'tribute' to 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

Three police officers murdered the defenseless teenager during an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City back in 2017. They claimed Kian resisted arrest despite a nearby security camera showing otherwise.

Extrajudicial killings and allegations of evidence planting have tainted the image of the PNP.

Eleazar said, the use of body cameras will also protect policemen against unfair allegations.

'Work in progress'

The police leadership distributed 2,696 body cams to 171 police offices nationwide. The number is only 8% of the PNP's target of 34,000 units for all police stations.

Eleazar admitted the system isn't perfect yet, calling it a 'work in progress.'

The general said lack of budget for the procurement of more units is a concern. He is hoping lawmakers will allocate more funds for the program.

Police personnel can only use the body cams during planned operations such as, among others:

- Illegal drug stings

- Hostage and rescue operations

- High-risk checkpoints

- National events requiring tight security

- Serving of search and arrest warrant

- Implementation of court order

"The body worn cameras 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," the PNP chief said.

'Tamper-proof'

Personnel wearing the body cams are not allowed to turn it off during the operation. Those manning the PNP command center can intervene and switch the camera back on.

The personnel involved will also have to explain why he or she turned it off.

"So hindi niya po kayang dayain at kung mayroon siyang plano na gawing hindi maganda during planned police operations ano (The police officer cannot fake it if there's intent to do something wrong during police operations)," PNP Operations Director Alfred Corpuz explained during the press briefing.

They also have to surrender the cams to the police station before leaving their duty, and the gathered footage will automatically be submitted to the command center. The videos can't be erased easily as these are only accessible at the center.

The body cameras cannot be used by an off-duty officer.

Some off-duty officers have been involved in police brutality, like Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, who fatally shot Sonia Gregorio and her son Frank in Tarlac in December 2020.

Master Sgt. Hensie Zinampan was also off-duty when he gunned down Lilibeth Valdez in Quezon City last Monday.

Eleazar, however, said they're aiming to provide body cams to all police personnel.

The PNP is waiting for the Supreme Court's comments on their submitted guidelines.