Make bodycams mandatory in drug busts – Recto

By Zaldy De Layola

April 16, 2023, 3:55 pm

<p>File photo</p>

File photo

MANILA – House Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th District Rep. Ralph Recto on Sunday called on authorities to stop relying on “lamppost CCTVs” in piecing post operation evidence and instead source the footage from the equipment they carry before, during and after drug operations.

Recto said police officers should wear body cameras (bodycams) during drug busts so that a video recording of the operation can aid in prosecuting suspects, commend deserving officers and deter those caught and their coddlers from bribing their way to freedom.

“A widely available and affordable device, which is the camera, can preserve a hard to refute documentation of drug arrests. Whether the narcotics seized weigh one kilo or one ton, a video recording is the best receipt there is,” Recto pointed out in a statement.

“Mainam kung may resibo na mahirap ipagkaila. ‘Ika nga, may bodycam sa katawan at may dashcam sa sasakyan (It’s good to have a receipt that is hard to deny. As saying goes, bodycam in the body, dashcam in the car),” he added.

The presence of bodycams, he said, would also serve as a deterrent against any attempt by suspects and their backers to buy the freedom of the one arrested.

He said the use of body cameras can also be an “anti-arbor” device, referring to the street slang of suspects going scot-free after somebody influential intervened for their immediate release, without going through legal process.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) launched the use of body-worn cameras in June 2021 under Gen. Guillermo Eleazar (ret.). At the time, he said they needed to purchase up to 34,000 units to cover the entire force.

As of last year, there were 2,696 body cameras in the inventory, according to PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. during the Congressional budget hearings.

As for the Supreme Court order requiring police officers to wear the gear while serving warrants, the PNP still lacks around 5,000 units as of September 2022.

According to PNP guidelines, the bodycams may be worn during checkpoints/chokepoints/traffic stops, hot pursuits, arrests, suspicious vehicle/person stops, crimes in progress, assistance, transport of victims/suspects/detainees/evidence, any significant law enforcement activities that need audio or video evidence, and when taking statements or gathering information.

“Dapat kasama ‘yan sa OOTD [outfit of the day] ng mga pulis na sasabak sa mga operasyon laban sa droga (It should be included in the OOTD of the policemen who would participate in the drug operations),” Recto said.

He said if it is now “SOP (standard operating procedure) for police officers and police units to blanket their activities with social media reportage, then why is such an important operation be spared of such coverage?” (PNA)