PRO 7 receives 256 body cams

THE Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 has received 256 body-worn cameras from Camp Crame, the national police headquarters, and these devices will be used in carrying out warrants to search and to arrest.

PRO 7 Director Ronnie Montejo said these devices will be distributed to all the city police stations in Central Visayas. Before distributing the body cameras, he said, they will select police officers and train them on how to use devices.

The Supreme Court (SC) recently released “Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras in the Execution of Warrants,” requiring the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies to wear body cams during the implementation of search warrants and warrants of arrest; however, an arrest would still be considered valid if law enforcers can prove that the video-recording device malfunctioned during the operation or they can give other “reasonable grounds.”

PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar welcomed the new set of rules, which were passed as a resolution by the SC En Banc on June 29, 2021 as “there are increasing reports of civilian deaths resulting from the execution of warrants issued by trial courts,” and with “the causes and conditions surrounding such deaths being widely disputed.”

Reporters in Cebu who cover the police beat often interview police officials after an operation. After a drug bust that resulted in a suspect’s death, the leader of the police unit usually faces the reporters, and the official would often say that the suspect died after engaging them in a shootout.

Wearing a body cam, said Eleazar, would prove that the accusations of human rights violations hurled against the PNP were unjustified.

The police official said only 171 police units in the country will receive body cams.

Eleazar visited Cebu and inspected several police offices starting July 11. He then paid a courtesy call on Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia at the Capitol Building last Tuesday, July 13. The Provincial Board promised to give its full support to the PNP by crafting local laws that would help promote peace and order in the province.

SC resolution

The resolution states that cops are required to use at least one body-worn camera and an alternative recording device while in the service of warrants.

In lieu of a body-worn camera, law enforcers must file an ex parte motion before the court asking permission to use an alternative video recording device for justifiable reasons.

For warrantless arrests, police officers may use alternative video recording equipment or tap a media representative to capture it.

The SC said subjects of warrants should be informed about the presence of a body camera or an alternative video recorder.

Failure to comply with the SC regulation on use of body worn cameras in executing an arrest warrant will not be a ground to render the arrest unlawful or the evidence obtained inadmissible as testimonies of arresting officers, those arrested and other witnesses may suffice.

However, failure to use the required body camera or alternative devices without reasonable grounds during service of search warrant shall render the evidence obtained inadmissible.

Failure to use the device without reasonable grounds or if police intentionally interfere with the ability of the camera to record the arrest or search warrants, they may be held liable.

In case execution of search and arrest warrants leads to death, an incident report shall be submitted detailing what occurred, including the cause of death.

While all recordings should be transferred to an external storage device which should be surrendered to the court that issued the warrants, policemen may seek permission to keep a back-up copy of the recording but only for a maximum of 15 days.

Downloading of data from body-worn cameras or alternative recording devices should be done within 24 hours after the execution of warrants.

To ensure no tampering is done when downloading, subjects of the recordings or their counsels are allowed to witness the process.

Data recorded shall not be publicized, unless the incident involves loss of life or an assault was made.

Recordings from a third party, including the media, shall not be used before and after its use in a trial. Violating this may constitute contempt of court.

The subject of the warrant may also decline to use the recording by or against him during the court proceedings. (KAL FROM AYB, ANV / TPM / SunStar Philippines)