PNP vows sanctions vs cops committing abuse in Oplan Baklas
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) has assured the public that police officers, if found liable for abuses while implementing the Oplan Baklas of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), may face consequences under the rules.
According to PNP Public Information Office (PNP-PIO) chief Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba, people who felt that the police abused its mandate when campaign materials were ordered removed by the Comelec can file their complaints through the police force or the poll body.
“Kung may reklamo laban sa mga police personnel na nagtanggal ng campaign materials sa private properties kahit pinapayagan ng may-ari, ay puwede naman silang dumulog sa PNP o kaya naman ay Comelec,” Alba said in a statement sent to reporters.
(If there are complaints against the police personnel involved in the removal of campaign materials inside private properties even if the owner allows it, they can seek help from the PNP or even the Comelec.)
“Kung mapapatunayang may pagmamalabis (If proven that they abused their authority), they will have to face the consequences of their actions. We have our Internal Service Affairs to determine if may administrative liability nga sa part ng police personnel involved. Thus, the usual process of investigation,” he added.
Complaints about the police’s role in Comelec’s Oplan Baklas rose after officers in Isabela province were seen in a video, removing campaign materials for Vice President Leni Robredo’s presidential bid even if they were placed inside a private property in Santiago City.
(3/4) WATCH: Police were also present during the removal of campaign materials, which Macalintal said is 'trespassing'. He says that if cops need to show court orders to seize firearms in a private area, then all the more for campaign materials.#VotePH @inquirerdotnet pic.twitter.com/5Moo9nVLCf
— Gabriel P. Lalu (@GabrielLaluINQ) February 17, 2022
Earlier, Robredo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal called out the cops, saying that it is trespassing and a search or seizure order should have been presented before police officers went inside — in the same manner that a search warrant is needed before authorities confiscate indiscriminate firearms.
Macalintal urged private individuals affected by the Oplan Baklas to deny Comelec officers entry if they are trying to remove materials inside private areas, aside from filing cases against the government personnel involved.
But Alba maintained that PNP personnel are really required to join Comelec officers in implementing Oplan Baklas, as part of the enforcement cluster.
“Ang general rule po kasi, kapag may gagawing Oplan Baklas, dapat po ay kasama ng PNP ang mga local election officials o representative ng authorized agencies. Tayo po ay sa enforcement part guided by the campaign rules,” Alba explained.
(The general rule is that if Comelec conducts an Oplan Baklas, PNP personnel should accompany local election officials or the representative of authorized agencies. We in the enforcement part are guided by the campaign rules.)
“According to the Comelec omnibus code, hindi naman po bawal ang paglalagay ng campaign materials sa mga private property given that there is a consent from the owner. However may mga pinatutupad na panuntunan na ipinapatupad ang Comelec tungkol dito lalo na sa sukat,” it added.
(According to the Comelec Omnibus Code, putting up campaign materials within a private property is allowed given that there is a consent from the owner. However, Comelec is also enforcing strict rules about the size of the campaign materials.)
Comelec’s initial Oplan Baklas covered Metro Manila cities of Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, Pasig, and Caloocan. The non-compliant posters were removed by personnel of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and by Comelec officials.
However, several supporters of Robredo cried foul after Comelec also ordered the removal of materials inside their campaign volunteer headquarters in Quezon City, which they believe was part of a private property.
Similarly, the spokesperson of presidential aspirant and former senator Bongbong Marcos said that Comelec may need to strike a balance between implementing their mandate and respecting freedom of expression.