Tattoos make cops, soldiers look like gangsters, criminals – DND, PNP chiefs

Rambo Talabong
Tattoos make cops, soldiers look like gangsters, criminals – DND, PNP chiefs
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top cop Ronald dela Rosa reject a congressman's proposal to scrap the no-tattoo policy of the DND and the PNP

MANILA, Philippines – Tattoos are a no-no for the uniformed personnel. 

The country’s top security officials announced this in separate statements on Monday, April 2, saying that indelible designs on any parts of the body are simply unpleasant to look at.

Department of National Defense (DND) chief Delfin Lorenzana and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa both said the prohibition for tattoos on cops and soldiers stays.

They were reacting to the call of Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles, who urged the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to change current conventions and scrap their no-tattoo policies.

What the defense chief said:  “Any good reason why we will lift it? We would like to keep it that way. Just like haircut. The military imposes strict rules on haircut and even mustache, why not tattoo?” Lorenzana told defense reporters through a text message on Monday.

“Tattoos are ugly and connote gangster image,” he added.

What the PNP chief said: Pasensiya na sa may mga tattoo, ha? Alam ko you will invoke your right to express your artistic desires. Art sa inyo art, sa amin taboo. Prangkahan tayo: sa inyo art ‘yung tattoo, sa PNP taboo kapag nakikita, na-e-expose, dahil pangit. Parang kriminal,” Dela Rosa said during a press briefing in Camp Crame also on Monday.

(Apologies to those who have tattoos. I know you will invoke your right to express your artistic desires. What’s art for you is taboo for us. Let’s be frank: what’s art for you is taboo for the PNP if it gets seen or exposed because it is ugly and criminal-like.)

Why they reject Nograles’ idea:  The Davao City lawmaker, a party mate of President Rodrigo Duterte, branded as “unfair” and “archaic” the rule of the AFP and the PNP rejecting applicants based solely on whether they have tattoos.

Dela Rosa and Lorenzana rejected Nograles’ labels. 

Dela Rosa explained that the PNP’s selection process really is unfair and “discriminatory” because standards are needed to find the qualified applicants.

Lorenzana, meanwhile, said: “We have standards of behaviors that harken back to medieval times, and they are still relevant today: following orders, wearing approved uniform and badges, fitting into an organization, having a regulation haircut, regulated daily activities, be physically fit.” –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.