Dela Rosa backs body cameras for cops

MANILA, Philippines – As the public continued to rage over the death of teenager Kian delos Santos in a police operation, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said on Tuesday, August 22, that he now favored strapping body cameras to cops to ensure transparency in their operations.

"'Sang-ayon ako diyan. Maganda po 'yan para walang pagdududa sa lahat ng lakad ng ating kapulisan. Transparent tayo dapat (I agree with that. That is good so that there is no doubt in all police operations. We need to be transparent)," Dela Rosa said in an interview with radio dwIZ on Tuesday.

The country's top cop was asked about the proposed measures in the Senate and the House seeking to require policemen to wear body cameras.

This is in contrast to his dismissive tone on the proposal in August last year, when he was asked to issue body cameras to cops following the rising death toll in the government's war on drugs.

In a media briefing on August 16, 2016, Dela Rosa said in response to the call for cops to wear body cameras: "We're having a hard time buying bullets and guns for our personnel and you're thinking of buying cameras? Let's cover the basics that our personnel need to defend themselves and not to defend the other party." (READ: Dela Rosa on Tasers vs drug suspects: 'Do you want us to die?')

A year later, Dela Rosa changed his tune, saying that body cameras would aid the PNP in its  "internal cleansing" or purging its ranks of erring cops.

Referring to the body cameras, he said on Tuesday: "Magiging detrimental 'yan sa mga pulis na may masamang layunin dahil mabubulabog 'yung ginagawa nilang kalokohan, dahil recorded 'yan hindi ba? Pero kapag ikaw ay pulis na matino hindi po 'yan detrimental."

(That will be detrimental to police who have bad intentions because their illegal activities will be foiled, because that will be recorded, right? But if you're a good cop, it won't be detrimental.)

He said, however, that he would have to check if the PNP's proposed budget  for 2018, which is under deliberation in Congress, can accommodate the purchase of the recording tools.

Citics of the war on drugs have pushed for the use of body cameras, saying this would provide an unedited narration of police raids, as in the case of Delos Santos and other questionable deaths in legitimate operations. (READ: Our son, Kian: A good, sweet boy)

While the cops maintained that Delos Santos was  a drug runner who was killed after he fired shots at police, CCTV footage and eyewitness reports claimed that it was a case of extrajudicial killing.

The 3 cops behind the death had been placed restrictive custody of the PNP, and are under investigation by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Cops and cameras

This is not the first time that cameras stood in the spotlight in a police operation in line with the PNP's war against drugs and criminality.

The latest incident was on July 30, when the police conducted a pre-dawn search operation on the home of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog that killed the mayor, wife Susan, and 14 others.

The members of the raiding police claimed the crime and drug-linked family and their supporters shot at them first, prompting them to retaliate. Prior to the operation, cops disabled the CCTV cameras in the residence, supposedly to prevent recording the identity of informants who were with them during the raid.

Dela Rosa had said that the shutdown of the Parojinogs' surveillance system was "wrong," but defended the bloody operation as legitimate.

Youth groups demanding justice for Delos Santos accused the police of deliberately conducting operations in poor communities that cannot afford to set up CCTVs. – Rappler.com

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.

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