In a move that will protect citizens from potential police abuses, the Supreme Court issued a rule requiring all law enforcement agents to use body-worn cameras (BWCs) when serving or implementing search and arrest warrants.
Supreme Court Administrative Matter 21-06-08-SC dated June 29, 2021 states that failure to comply will result in evidence seized for prosecuting suspects rendered inadmissible in court.
Furthermore, law enforcers who tamper or manipulate the BWCs shall be liable for contempt of court.
“Failure to observe the requirement for using body-worn cameras or alternative recording devices shall render the arrest unlawful or render the evidence obtained inadmissible,” the Supreme Court said.
The Supreme Court rule states specifically the BWCs be activated as soon as law enforcement officers arrive at the place of arrest and be deactivated once the arrest has been fully concluded with the suspect brought to the nearest detention facility.
Law enforcement officers can also seek a court’s permission to use another recording device in the absence of an issued BWC.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar assured the public the BWCs are tamper-proof and cannot be manually turned off by policemen wearing them.
“The cameras capture real-time events and these are recorded in our central database. More importantly, footage taken through the BWCs cannot be erased easily as they are only accessible at the PNP Command Center,” he said.
He added the BWC System, in support of the S.M.A.R.T. (Secured, Mobile, Artificial-Intelligence driven, Real-time Technology) Policing initiative of the PNP, will allow the PNP Command Center to monitor the actual police operations of all units nationwide.
“The BWC will not only satisfy the requirement of transparency in police operations but, more importantly, capture real-life actions for their evidentiary value in investigation and prosecution,” he said.
Under the “Revised Operational Guidelines and Policies on the Use of Body-Worn Camera,” PNP personnel would use BWCs in anti-Illegal drug operations, except where police operatives act as poseur buyers and perform test-buys; service of search warrant and warrant of arrest; hostage rescue operations; high-risk checkpoint/chokepoint operations; security operations during the implementation of decision/orders of the court, and quasi-judicial or administrative bodies; and security coverage during major events in the country.