Lawmaker: PNP policy on tattoos ‘unconstitutional, baseless’

Lawmaker: PNP policy on tattoos ‘unconstitutional, baseless’
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A LAWMAKER urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to scrap its policy prohibiting policemen from having tattoos, saying it is “unconstitutional and baseless.”

In a statement, Manila City Third District Representative Joel Chua expressed disappointment on the PNP’s supposed “negative mindset” about people with tattoos, as he maintained that having such has nothing to do with the performance of duty of any police or public servant.

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Chua noted that there is no provision in the Constitution, whether it be under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, or Republic Act 6975 or thelaw for the establishment of the PNP, against the bearing and sporting of tattoos.

“There is a saying in statutory legal construction that essentially means, ‘What is not included is excluded.’ This dictum applies especially so when there is a detailed enumeration of what is included. In the laws I have cited, tattoos or anything similar to tattoos are not included,” he said.

“The PNP should discard that policy now before they get into legal trouble for the unconstitutionality of their policy. Tattoos are an art form of expression. The Constitution protects freedom of expression. By all indications, the PNP policy on tattoos is unconstitutional,” he added.

Chua said the only possible reason to use tattoos as a basis to exclude or discriminate against anyone is if the tattoo means actual current membership and participation in any active criminal organization.

He noted that the membership in the criminal organization must be proven first.

“Tattoos are not probable cause for that -- not even membership in jail gangs because it is the criminal activity that must be proven to actually exist, not the mere presence of the tattoos,” said Chua.

“Tattoos cannot even be used to discriminate against former convicts who have served their sentences in jail because our laws advance restorative justice and integration into society of ex-convicts. Tattoos should not be used as indirect indicators of possible criminal behavior,” he added.

Chua also cited the danger posed by the removal of tattoos to one’s health, noting that cops may suffer from infection if the removal is not done by licensed healthcare practitioners with specific training and certification in tattoo removal.

In response, PNP chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) Colonel Jean Fajardo acknowledged the concern of some personalities against the Memorandum Circular 2024-023, which was approved by the PNP leadership on March 19, 2024.

Under the policy, both uniformed and non-uniformed or civilian police personnel are required to have their “visible” tattoos removed.

They are also required to execute an affidavit declaring their tattoos that are not visible, noting that they are no longer allowed to have additional tattoos in any parts of their body whether visible or not while they are still in the service.

Police applicants are also not allowed to have any tattoos at all.

The policy, however, excludes aesthetic tattoos such as but not limited to eyebrows, eyeliner or lips.

Fajardo maintained in an interview on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, that the policy is not intended to discriminate against those who have tattoos.

“Naintindihan natin ‘yung mga saloobin ng iba but like we said earlier, ang ating chief PNP pursuant to his authority ay pupuwedeng magpasa ng circular with respect sa mga internal disciplinary mechanisms applicable only to PNP personnel. Sa katulad ng sabi natin kanina ay hindi tayo nagdidiscriminate doon sa mga may tattoo,” she said.

(We understand the sentiments of others but like we said earlier, our chief PNP pursuant to his authority will be able to pass a circular with respect to the internal disciplinary mechanisms applicable only to PNP personnel. As we said earlier, we do not discriminate against those with tattoos.)

“However, ang PNP ay naniniwala na itong policy na ito which by the way katulad ng ibang circular ay nagkaroon ng consultation bago ito naipasa bilang policy. So again like I said, there are certain norms and code of conduct na kailangan natin iimplement within the PNP so we could maintain ‘yung disiplina sa ating hanay,” she added.

(However, the PNP believes that this policy which by the way like other circulars had a consultation before it was passed as a policy. So again like I said, there are certain norms and codes of conduct that we need to implement within the PNP so we could maintain discipline in our ranks.)

She said the PNP Health Service will make a recommendation to address the health concerns related to the removal of the visible tattoos of the cops. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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