Updating on the status of the implementation of the policy requiring law enforcers to wear body cameras during police operations, Interior Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. said it is “mandated by law.” This needs context.
Interviewed by CNN Philippines anchor Pinky Webb on the program The Source, Abalos said:
“It’s mandated by law. Kailangan talaga ng body cam[era].”
(It’s mandated by law. Body cam[era] is really required.)
It was the Supreme Court, in a resolution dated June 29, 2021, that required the police to wear and use body cameras when serving arrest and search warrants. The high court cited its constitutional power to “promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of people’s constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts” in issuing the order.
The directive was issued in response to letters from lawyers’ groups and human rights watchdogs asking the SC to review its rules on the matter. This came after a series of raids that resulted in the death of nine activists.
With this, the SC noted:
“There are increasing reports of civilian deaths resulting from the execution of warrants issued by trial courts, the causes and conditions surrounding such deaths being widely disputed.”
Source: Supreme Court of the Philippines, Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras in the Execution of Warrants (A.M. No. 21-06-08-SC), June 29, 2021
Failure to comply with the SC’s body cam requirement would render the arrest “unlawful” and the evidence obtained in the implementation of the warrant “inadmissible” in court, the rules read.
In a Sept. 16 email to VERA Files Fact Check, the Supreme Court Public Information Office (SC PIO) said the high court has the “power to promulgate rules governing the enforcement and protection of rights and rules governing pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts” following Art. 8, Section 5 (5) of the 1987 Constitution.
SC PIO Chief and Assistant Court Administrator Brian Keith Hosaka wrote:
“While the Rules is not legislation passed by Congress, it has legal effect as a set of rules governing the procedure in our courts.”
In a 2018 memorandum, then-Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa announced that the use of body cams in police operations, including those involving illegal drugs, was “encouraged” depending on the availability of these equipment.
With the SC order, police officers must keep their “body-worn cameras” on when serving warrants until the person arrested is turned over to the nearest precinct or jail.
Body cam videos must be stored in an external drive and delivered in a sealed package to the court that issued the warrant.
Early last year, the SC condemned the killings of lawyers and judges. The high court said it had resolved to deliberate and create rules on the use of body cameras in police operations.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has procured over 2,500 body cams for 260,000 of its personnel as of September.
PNP Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has asked Congress to consider providing funds for the purchase of more body cameras in the proposed budget of P191.49 billion of the Department of Interior and Local Government next year.
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CNN Philippines Official Youtube Channel, DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos | The Source, Sept. 6, 2022
Supreme Court of the Philippines, Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras in the Execution of Warrants (A.M. No. 21-06-08-SC), June 29, 2021
Official Gazette of the Philippines, ARTICLE VIII: JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT, Accessed Sept. 8, 2022
Philippine National Police, Operational Guidelines and Policies on the Use of Body-worn Cameras, March 15, 2018
ABS-CBN News, Use of body cams in PNP anti-drug ops not yet required: Bato, Jan. 24, 2018
Rappler, Body cameras not required, just ‘encouraged’ in new drug war rules, Jan. 23, 2018
CNN Philippines, New guidelines ‘encourage’ police to use body cameras in drug ops , Jan. 23, 2018
Inquirer.net, IBP urges SC review of rule on search warrants after Calabarzon raids, March 12, 2021
ABS-CBN News, Bloody Sunday aftermath: SC ‘considers’ requiring body cameras in service of warrants, March 17, 2021
Bulatlat, After bloody Sunday, lawyers call for review of issuance of search warrants, March 23, 2021
ABS-CBN News, PNP seeks funds for additional body cameras, Sept. 1, 2022
Rappler, PNP seeks funds for more body cameras in 2023 budget, Sept. 1, 2022
Business Mirror, DILG, attached agencies, seek P251.18-B budget for 2023, Sept. 2, 2022
Editor’s note: This fact check was updated on Sept. 20, 2022 to include the email response of the Supreme Court Public Information Office to VERA Files Fact Check’s query.
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)