Press Release
August 17, 2023

CHIZ CO-AUTHORS BILL ON BODY-WORN CAMERAS; CALLS FOR REVIEW OF PNP POLICY ON USE AND PROCUREMENT;

Sen. Chiz Escudero has co-authored a bill filed by his colleague, Sen. Raffy Tulfo, that mandates law enforcement personnel to use body-worn cameras (bodycams) during police operations and other activities to ensure transparency and strengthen evidence quality.

Senate Bill (SB) 2199 or the "Body-worn Camera Act" covers police operations, including service of warrants of arrest, implementation of search warrants, enforcement of visitorial powers of the Chief Philippine National Police (PNP) and unit commanders, and anti-illegal drugs operation, among others.

Escudero has signified his intention to co-author Tulfo's bill following reports that the policemen accused of killing 17-year-old Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar has deliberately turned off their bodycams during their operation.

"I join Sen. Tulfo in his desire for justice for the victim and in calling out not only the policemen involved but the entire Philippine National Police," Escudero said at the Senate plenary on Wednesday (Aug. 16).

He said the act "highlights the need to revisit the rules on using these police tools and to boost their procurement."

"There are lessons from this painful episode which must be learned - both on policy and procurement, so no mother will be burying her innocent child again," Escudero said, referring to the death Baltazar from the hands of the Navotas City police.

According to reports, Baltazar was a victim of mistaken identity as it later turned out that he was not the suspect the six cops were looking for.

"Clear-cut and extensive rules must be incorporated in the Philippine National Police (PNP) manual of operations, with corresponding sanctions for violations committed. It should also be studied if mandatory use of body-worn recording devices will be legislated so there will be a regime of rules on the application of technology which has a big impact on policing and justice system," Escudero said.

He noted that such lag in regulations is understandable as "the law is always behind the technological curve."

While calling for a review of the police operations manual, Escudero also called for a boost in bodycams procurement by the PNP and other law enforcement agencies, saying: "There is a greater lapse than failing to turn on bodycams, and that is none is available to wear."

He said the upcoming Senate hearings on the 2024 budget is the perfect opportunity to look into the status of the bodycam procurement program of the PNP.

"Mayroong proposed P2 billion for Capital Outlays in the PNP budget para sa susunod na taon. Mayroon bang nakalaan para sa pagbili ng mga bodycams?" he asked.

The Bicolano senator recalled that he was one of those who voted for the P5.6 billion budget for the PNP modernization in the 2017 national budget.

"But it took four years and as many PNP chiefs for the first batch of 2,696 units to be delivered to the PNP in 2021. Hindi na nga nabigyan prayoridad ang mga bodycams sa mga shopping list, naantala pa ang pagdeliver nito. Equipment delayed is effective policing denied, " he stressed.

Escudero said the Supreme Court order mandating law enforcers to wear bodycams when serving arrest warrants is not only a guard against abuse but a recognition that technology is available to ensure that the process will follow rules.

"If a video of Chinese soldier peeing on the beach on one of its armed garrisons in the West Philippine Sea can be captured by a satellite circling in space, then how can a police operation not be recorded up close and personal?" Escudero asked. "Such technology is not alien to PNP, which is a heavy social media user, and which formed a division out of its active TikTokers."

"Kung tricycles na nga ngayon may dashcam, at riders may bodycams, bakit ang isang ahensyang may napakahalagang gawain at malaking pondo ay salat sa ganitong kagamitan," he said.

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