Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Editorial: Welcome developments

Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan

The Philippine National Police (PNP) began using body cameras in its operations on June 4, 2021. That took around four years since it began procurement in 2017, one of the takeaways from the public pressure following the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and 19-year-old Karl Angelo Arnaiz in August 2017 in Caloocan City. Two policemen were eventually stripped of their badges.

PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar said there are as of now 623 policemen who have been trained in the use of the body cameras. The organization has some 2,696 units of body cameras, distributed to 171 city police stations in the country. Each station will have 16 units, but only four will have real-time monitoring capabilities.

These gadgets, which are capable of recording for eight straight hours, will be used in anti-drug operations, during the serving of search and arrest warrants, hostage rescue operations, high-risk checkpoints, security operations in the implementation of court or quasi-judicial body orders, and in major events, such as elections, festivals, and the State of the Nation Address.

Either it’s timing or this comes as part of the waves of responses the PNP are having under the leadership of Eleazar, who had placed at the center of his mission of intensifying internal cleaning when he assumed his post.

In the aftermath of the incident involving Police Master Sgt. Hensie Zinampan who shot at point-blank range 52-year-old Lilibeth Valdez before her family in Barangay Greater Fairview, Quezon City, Eleazar announced he is seriously considering a periodic neuropsychiatric test for policemen, although he may have to work on partnerships with health institutions to make this possible. If there was public outrage, an echo from a not-too-distant incident in December 2021 involving Senior Master Sgt. Jonel Nuezca who shot 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her son, this is mirrored in the infuriated Eleazar, who dressed down Zinampan in public view.

“We are serious in pushing for reforms within the police organization. I am exhausting all efforts to get rid of these few police scalawags who put the PNP in a bad light. Like you, I am also angry at rotten policeman,” Eleazar said last week.

Eleazar had also set his eyes on the PNP’s recruitment process as a cut-in-the-bud strategy, ensuring honesty and quality even at that stage—a “faceless and nameless’ recruitment system to ensure that only the best earn their place in the police organization.

“We want to end the rotten system where some applicants get a backing from ranking PNP officials just to enter the organization. With this kind of system, there is already corruption. We don’t want these people to enter our ranks,” he said.

Meantime, close to home, Talisay City Police Chief Gerald Ace Pelare, who is also a lawyer, has taken the initiative to lecture police trainees on crucial legal aspects in their jobs, especially in arrest protocols, something that is most often taught rather insufficiently in cop academies. Pelare adds that healthy ingredient into improving police work, especially in the light of a poor prosecution rate in illegal drug cases, as reported by the Department of Justice in recent years.

This year, the National Police Commission approved 17,134 slots to be filled up in the PNP organization as a way to improve police-to-population ratio. With so large a number, it should be no trouble to weed out the undeserving ones.


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