TO PREVENT unlawful arrests and planting of evidence as alleged in the case of peasant organizer Amanda Echanis, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan wants the police to wear body cameras during police operations.
“Proteksyon ito ng publiko sa maaaring pang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan at karahasan ng mga pulis tulad ng pagtanim ng ebidensya, illegal na pag-aresto at maging ng pagpatay (We need to protect the public against the possibility of police abuse of power or use of violence such as planting of evidence, illegal arrest, and even killings),” said Pangilinan.
Earlier, together with Minority Senators Leila De Lima, Franklin Drilon, and Risa Hontiveros, Pangilinan called for the immediate release of Echanis and her one-month-old baby boy from detention after their arrest on December 2 for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
In a statement, the Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas of the University of the Philippines-College of Arts and Letters, where she studied and finished a degree in creative writing, said Echanis was in Cagayan Valley doing relief operations when arrested.
Pangilinan called for the immediate passage of his Senate Bill 427 or The Body Camera Act which requires law enforcers to immediately activate these devices at the beginning of their operations or at the first reasonable opportunity when there is an immediate threat to life and safety. These cameras shall not be deactivated until operations have been concluded.
“Makakatulong ito sa mga lugar na walang CCTV. Proteksyon din ito sa mga pulis (This will help in areas without CCTV cameras. This is also a protection for policemen),” he said.
During the hearing for the 2021 national budget, the Philippine National Police mentioned that 2,600 body cams have been procured with a budget of P287 million. If the body cams passed the testing last 12 October 2020, they will be issued to police units in their drug operation activities.
“Bukod kay Amanda, libo-libo pa ang naaresto o namatay sa kamay ng mga police na maaaring tinaniman ng ebidensya. Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin nila nakakamtam ang hustisya. (Aside from Amanda, thousands have been arrested or even killed by the police, possibly on planted evidence. Until now, justice is still not served),” Pangilinan said.
Senate Bill 427 provides that in specific instances, the camera may be deactivated to protect the privacy of occupants of private residences, crime victims, and anonymous reporter of crimes, among others, with their required consent.
The body camera footages are subject to a retention period of six months from its recording date and will be permanently deleted thereafter. However, if the said footage has evidentiary or exculpatory value, the period of retention may be extended for a longer time not exceeding three years upon the request of concerned law enforcement officers and the public.
“Maiiwasan nito ang pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan at mabbaawasan din ang mga pagpatay at pagdakip sa kamay ng pulis. We hope this bill would be passed into law as soon as possible,” Pangilinan said.