No legal basis for PNP tattoo ban—lawmakers

No legal basis for PNP tattoo ban–lawmakers

Police officers march at the Philippine National Police grounds in Camp Crame in Quezon City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines — House lawmakers on Wednesday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to drop its “unconstitutional” policy against inked personnel, stressing that tattoos should not be used as an indicator of someone’s good moral conduct or fitness to serve.

For Manila Rep. Joel Chua, PNP Memorandum Circular 2024-023, which requires all uniformed and non-uniformed police personnel to declare all their tattoos and remove visible ones, was baseless.

According to him, there was no provision in Republic Act 6975, the law creating the PNP, and in Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees referring to tattoos.

READ: NCRPO open to cops with tattoos

“[Tattoos are] not in the qualifications and disqualifications stated in section 30 of RA 6975. Even the Supreme Court did not prohibit or reject judges bearing tattoos,” Chua said, citing a 2021 administrative case involving the social media posts of an inked judge in La Union.

“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,” he added. “In the laws I have cited, tattoos or anything similar to tattoos are not included.”

Chua went on to say that tattoos should not be used as indirect indicators of possible criminal behavior, saying he was disappointed the PNP had a negative view of inked people.

“Tattoos have nothing to do with the job performance of any police or public servant,” he said.

Art form of expression

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

Bukidnon Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores also expressed his opposition to the PNP policy on tattoos for future and current police officers, saying it smacked of stereotyping and bias even though it had no legal basis.

“The PNP should not make tattoos a proxy or indirect indicator of ‘good moral conduct’ or ‘of sound mind and body,’” he said.


Flores, a lawyer and member of the House committee on human rights, maintained that the PNP’s reasoning that tattoos projected a negative public image “without basis in the law establishing the PNP.”

“It can also be considered unconstitutional to discriminate in a way against people with tattoos because tattoos are symbols of expression of faith, love and association,” he pointed out.

Flores said the ban on tattoos was “irrelevant as a disqualification” because these had nothing to do with the competence or skills needed to become a police officer.

Under the PNP memorandum issued on March 19, tattooed applicants or lateral entrants would not be accepted into the police service. Uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, on the other hand, would be required to declare all existing tattoos and remove those visible or not covered by their uniform. Exempted from the ban are aesthetic tattoos such as those on eyebrows or lips.

The memo defines unauthorized tattoos as those that are extremist, ethnically or religiously discriminatory, offensive, indecent, racist, sexist and associated with prohibited or unauthorized groups.

It also prohibits police personnel from getting new tattoos and requires PNP employees with visible tattoos to have these removed within three months.