A PRECURSOR to the reward policy for the payment of police informers was Republic Act (RA) 2338 that provided rewards to those who squealed on tax violators.

The rewards system originally targeted those who dodge payment of taxes but the practice has evolved through the years and the exigencies of the time to cover cash payments for information against terrorists, bandits and other criminals.

The basis for this policy is the need for citizens to take part in a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach to criminality. Violent crimes have become prevalent necessitating the participation of all.

While RA 2338 is clear and specific as to who would qualify for a reward, practices among law enforcement agencies and local governments vary as to the amounts, who would qualify, and the ways by which the cash is given.

The law on rewards to informers on tax violators states that the award can represent as much as 25 percent of the revenue or fees recovered or of the fee or penalty collected. Not qualified to receive a reward are internal revenue or customs officials or employees, or other public officials, or their relatives within the sixth degree of consanguinity. RA 2338 has been repealed by the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 and the 25 percent share to the informer has been slashed to 10 percent.

Outside of tax purposes, the giving of cash rewards to informers has continued but the amounts, the manner the cash is given, and who would qualify have been dependent on the authority giving the reward.

While government agents are not supposed to qualify for a reward, this rule has changed. Example of how it was modified was through a Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) resolution last year that said law enforcers involved in the anti-illegal drug operations can get cash rewards. The DDB resolution said the incentives would prod law enforcers to intensify operations against illegal drugs, in accordance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Questions have been raised on the giving of cash rewards to informers after law enforcers who arrested or killed drug suspects were among those awarded and citizens in Bohol who tipped off soldiers on the presence of suspected Abu Sayyaf members were reportedly not paid the promised amount.

Questions on the giving of rewards could place the image of the police under disrepute because of suspicions of a negotiated deal or a silent pact among the enforcers involved.

Members of the community would be reluctant to assist police in the future if they were not paid the promised reward, especially when such assistance involved security risks to them and their families.

There must be clear rules to govern the giving of cash rewards to informers so the public may check whether current practices are correct. For now, any clarification would come from the same office in charge of determining who should get the reward and how much.

The lack of transparency is based on the confidential nature of rewarding informers but there are ways to protect identities of informers without depriving the public of the details to judge the correctness of the reward.