(File photo)

MANILA – The year 2021 marked a milestone for the Philippine National Police (PNP) in upholding transparency and accountability, as well as enhancing its capability through acquiring new assets which are vital in performing its mandate to serve and protect.

Among these key measures is the acquisition and distribution of body-worn cameras for police officers.

Based on the latest data as of December 23, the PNP has distributed 2,696 BWCs to all its 16 regional commands, including those in Metro Manila.

These can be broken down into 144 for Police Regional Office (PRO-1), 64 for PRO-2, 244 for PRO-, 288 for Region-4A, 32 for PRO-4B, 112 for PRO-5, 256 for PRO-6, 256 for PRO-7, 112 for PRO-8, 80 for PRO-9, 144 for PRO-10, 96 for PRO-11, 80 for PRO-12, 96 for PRO-13, 32 for PRO-BARMM, 32 for PRO-Cordillera, and 40 for the National Capital Region Police Office.

Former PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar earlier said the transparency and legitimacy of law enforcement operations will now be assured with the use of BWCs.

“Dati ang sinasabi lang natin, baka sakali. Ngayon, tuloy na tuloy na matapos maglabas ang ating Supreme Court (SC) ng mga panuntunan sa pagsumite bilang court evidence ng mga video na kuha ng ating mga body cameras (In the past, we just say it may be possible. Now, it is really possible as the SC issued guidelines on the use of videos from body cameras as court evidence," he added.

Eleazar also thanked former PNP chiefs, including Senator Ronald dela Rosa, for initiating the review for the procurement of the best body cameras up to his predecessor Debold Sinas, who signed the final papers of the delivery.

He also thanked the Supreme Court (SC) for continuously assisting the PNP in coming up with the guidelines for the presentation of the BWC data as court evidence.

“The procurement and eventually the use of body camera-worn system 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.

He added that a BWC-equipped force will also ensure that there will be no violation in police operating procedures or human rights abuses. It will also protect PNP personnel from malicious and baseless charges. He also assured the public that the BWCs are tamper-proof and cannot be manually turned off by 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,” Eleazar said.

He added the BWC System, in support of the S.M.A.R.T. (Secured, Mobile, Artificial-Intelligence driven, Real-time Technology) Policing initiative of the PNP, will allow 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.

Under the “Revised Operational Guidelines and Policies on the Use of Body-Worn Camera”, PNP personnel would use BWCs 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 checkpoint/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 in the country.

Nameless recruitment

Another accomplishment of the PNP this year is the so-called "faceless and nameless" recruitment system to ensure that only the best candidates can enter the organization.

Eleazar earlier said the system aims to accept applicants who are most qualified and most deserving, noting that getting rid of the unfair and possibly corrupt practices in the recruitment process will ensure that only those who truly have the heart to serve the country can become law enforcers.

Under the recruitment scheme, a QR (quick response) Code System will be used to conceal the identity of the applicant. Only the applicant’s qualifications will be evaluated in determining if he/she will be accepted in the police force.

For this year’s recruitment, the National Police Commission approved 17,134 slots to be filled up in the PNP to replenish personnel losses, increase strength, enhance visibility, and improve the police-to-population ratio for the maintenance of peace and order in the community.

The QR Code System will be utilized in the entire application process of the applicant, including the Body Mass Index and agility test, drug, and neuropsychiatric test, and physical, medical, and even dental examinations.

Meanwhile, the Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG) has put up a complaint desk at the venue of all recruitment across the country to monitor the process in various police regional offices (PROs).

Then IMEG chief, Brig. Gen. Thomas Frias said this is part of the PNP leadership’s ongoing massive Intensified Cleanliness Policy aimed at penalizing police personnel defying strict directives and other policies.

“Let me go directly to my marching orders from the Chief, PNP which are very clear and simple, we will ensure the integrity and credibility of both the recruitment process and the applicants undergoing the said process, my team will be employing overt and covert approaches to preempt possible irregularities and to apprehend violators of existing policies in recruitment,” he said.

The IMEG complaint desk will be established at the venue of all the recruitment activities for CY 2021 with the following salient functions: conduct information dissemination; monitor and gather information; receive complaints; conduct validation and case build-up; and render the reports to the concerned field unit.

Frias said information may also be forwarded to Facebook Page: Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and Twitter account: @imeg2017. He assured the public that the identities of the informant will be kept strictly confidential.

Beefing up assets

The PNP has also boosted the available number of its air assets to around nine helicopters, of which four Airbus H-125 units are operational, with another three undergoing maintenance, and one Robinson 44 helicopter operational and another one undergoing maintenance check-up.

Also, there are now six PNP officers with commercial pilot licenses and seven with private pilot licenses for these helicopters with another one with a commercial pilot license for fixed-wing aircraft.

Also, one helicopter is slated for procurement to replace the one that crashed in Laguna in March 2020.

The PNP earlier said it is eyeing the purchase of more fixed and rotary wing assets to beef up its rescue and transport capabilities. It is eyeing the deployment of two helicopters each in Central Visayas and Southern Mindanao and one in Northern Luzon.

It also has included an air ambulance to its shopping list of programmed procurements. (PNA)