The Philippine National Police on Tuesday assured the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that mechanisms are in place for data management and privacy in the use of body-worn cameras in police operations.
PNP Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the agency’s technical working group, which was tasked to incorporate the protocols created by the Supreme Court with the rules crafted by the PNP, is also making sure that data privacy issues are all addressed.
Meanwhile, a House leader hailed the Supreme Court for issuing the guidelines on the use of body-worn cameras in serving search and arrest warrants, and explained how these would help ensure that police operations are above board and conducted in accordance with the law.
“A win for the people and the police,” Rep. Fidel Nograles of Rizal said, saying the guidelines “will go a long way in reassuring our people.”
“I assure the CHR that in the crafting and issuance of the Supreme Court’s guidelines on the use of body-worn cameras, data management and privacy were given primary importance in our honorable Justices’ deliberations,” Eleazar said.
“The Supreme Court resolution includes the importance of data privacy and the protection of information gathered using body-worn cameras. We are also continuously coordinating with the National Privacy Commission regarding this matter,” he added.
The CHR expressed hopes the body-worn cameras would result in more transparent police operations, which would bring back public trust in law enforcement.
The PNP introduced last month the use of the body-worn camera system to ensure transparency and the legitimacy of law-enforcement operations. Initially, a total of 2,696 body cameras were distributed to 171 city police stations and offices nationwide.
Eleazar had said the police force needs 30,000 body-worn cameras so that all police stations and units will be provided with them for use in operations.
Nograles, vice chair of the House committee on justice, said that he looks forward to the Philippine National Police incorporating the guidelines into its operations.
Issued by the High Court on June 29, A.M. No. 21-06-08-SC enumerates the approved rules for the use of body cams that shall cover “all applications, issuances, and executions of arrest and search warrants under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure,” as well as “warrantless arrests.”
The rules require law enforcers to wear at least one body camera and one alternative recording device while serving warrants. In cases wherein body cams are unavailable, implementing officers shall file an ex parte motion before the court requesting authority to use alternative recording devices for justifiable reasons.
The resolution said that body cam recordings “can deter the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers in the execution of warrants and can aid trial courts in resolving issues that may become relevant in the criminal case, such as conflicting eyewitness accounts.”
Nograles, a Harvard-trained lawyer, said the use of body cams are needed to ensure that police operations are above board and ultimately to restore the public’s trust in law enforcement.
“Just as important,” said Nograles, “these body cams will ensure compliance with protocols and procedures that govern searches and raids, and this in turn will aid our prosecutors in securing convictions when these are deserved.”
“On the flip side, if the suspects are not committing any wrongdoing, these cameras are tools that can help prove their innocence.”
According to Nograles, contrary to perceptions that these will only protect the rights of those suspected of crimes, “even the rights of PNP officers will be protected by these body cams as these can be used to assess accusations hurled against them.”
The neophyte lawmaker had earlier urged the PNP to hasten its rollout of body-worn cameras.
The PNP announced in June that it had procured 2,696 body cameras worth at least P288 million.