Removal of height requirement for Police, Fire and Jail Officers

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012


STRESSING that all citizens are equal before the law, a lawmaker has asked Congress to remove the height requirement for police, fire, and jail officers under his proposed "Police, Fire and Jail Height Equality Act of 2012."

"Height should not be a restriction for people who want to serve the country as police, fire and jail officers provided they possess other qualifications required in the effective performance of their duties," Rep. Pablo John Garcia (3rd District, Cebu) said in filing House Bill 6203.

The bill seeks to amend Republic Act 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990 and R.A. 9263, as amended, otherwise known as the Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Professionalization Act of 2004. RA 6975 provides that, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State to promote peace and order, ensure public safety and further strengthen local government capability aimed towards the effective delivery of the basic services to the citizenry through the establishment of a highly efficient and competent police force that is national in scope and civilian in character. Towards this end, the State shall bolster a system of coordination and cooperation among the citizenry, local executives and the integrated law enforcement and public safety agencies created under this Act. The police force shall be organized, trained and equipped primarily for the performance of police functions. Its national scope and civilian character shall be paramount. No element of the police force shall be military nor shall any position thereof be occupied by active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

RA 9263 provides that, “It is declared policy of the state to maintain peace and order, protect life, liberty and property, and promote the general welfare essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy (Article II, Section 5 of the Philippine Constitution) Moreover it recognizes the responsibility of the state to strengthen government capability aimed towards the strengthening of the delivery of basic services to the citizenry though the institutionalization of highly efficient and competent fire and jail services. It is provided for under Republic Act No. 6975, otherwise known as the "Department of the Interior and Local Government Act 1990", that the task of fire protection, and jail management and penology shall be the responsibility of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), respectively. Moreover, Section 3 of the Republic Act No. 8551, otherwise known as the "Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998", provides that in times of national emergency, BFP and the BJMP along with the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall, upon the direction of the President, assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in meeting the national emergency, in addition to the performance of their inherent functions as mandated by law. It is therefore recognized that the uniformed personnel of the BFP and the BJMP, as member of the uniformed service of the government under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), are required the same amount of sacrifice, service and dedication like their counterparts in the4 PNP and the AFP to carry out their respective duties to the extent of risking their lives and limbs. Towards this end, the State shall provide for the Professionalization and restructuring of the BFP and the BJMP by upgrading the level of qualifications of their uniformed personnel and standardizing their base pay, retirement and other benefits, making it at par with those of the PNP and the AFP.
Garcia cited Section 1, Article XII of Social Justice and Human Rights in the Philippine Constitution, which mandates Congress "to give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities..."

Garcia also cited Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "All are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and any indictment of such discrimination."

Garcia sought the immediate passage of the bill given the crucial coverage of responsibilities in law enforcement. He said fire protection and jail management, the PNP, the BFP and the BJMP need more competent members to better serve the growing demands of the public. "However, this noble intent is impeded by the height requirement that prevents potential candidates from entering the service," Garcia lamented.

Under the current law, a male PNP, fire and jail officer has to be at least 1.62 meters (5'3") tall while a female police, fire and jail officer must be at least 1.57 meters (5'1") tall. Garcia said because of the required height for police, fire and jail officers, a good number of possible candidates, mostly women, are being denied the opportunity to serve the country. "Removing this height requirement will effectively address this concern," Garcia said. HB 6203 was referred to the House Committee on Public Order and Security chaired by Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. (Lone District, City of Dasmarinas).

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on May 30, 2012.

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