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More solons want body cams for cops

More lawmakers backed proposals requiring law enforcers to wear body cameras during operations amid growing public outrage at the killings resulting from the government’s drug war.

Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress filed separate bills for the purpose after the killing on Aug. 16 of high school student Kian delos Santos, who was accused of being a drug courier.

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Delos Santos was one of the 82 drug suspects who were killed in separate police operations in Bulacan and Metro Manila during that week, a death toll that shocked many Filipinos.

But retired Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said spiritual formation was better than cameras in stopping extrajudicial killings.

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“I am in favor of giving the police intense spiritual formation on the divine commandments and respect for human right to life,” said Arguelles, who once served as military ordinary before becoming archbishop of Lipa, Batangas.

“If they have an evil heart, they will do evil no matter what you place on their bodies,” he said, adding there were also those who continue to work for the public good.

“Crime never solves crimes. Violence generates only more violence,” he said.

Nonetheless, lawmakers renewed previous proposals requiring law enforcers to wear body cameras during operations, a move that Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa rejected last year.

Dela Rosa had said he would rather use the funds to buy guns and other weapons for the country’s 130,000 policemen.

Deterrent

But even Dela Rosa backtracked last week and said on Aug. 22 that body cameras could deter unscrupulous cops and also protect honest policemen who are only doing their jobs.

Moreover, Congress is still deliberating the government’s 2018 budget and Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III of ACTS-OFW proposed the allocation of P200 million for the purpose.

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“I file this bill in honor of Kian and other minors who perished in police operations so that their untimely deaths will not be in vain,” Bertiz said on Wednesday.

Bertiz urged his colleagues in the House to pass the new law and call it “The Kian delos Santos Body Cam Act of 2017.”

Aside from Bertiz, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon also filed a separate version ahead of Senators Richard Gordon, Francis Pangilinan and Sherwin Gatchalian in the Senate.

Gatchalian said “footage collected from police body cams would provide concrete evidence to hold police scalawags administratively and criminally liable.”

In his proposal, Gatchalian said these body cameras must be set to record footage during the entire police operation and policemen who did not comply would be summarily suspended pending criminal prosecution.

“Should the unrecorded operation result in the injury or death of a drug personality or any other individual, the erring policemen will be automatically dismissed from service and recommended for criminal prosecution,” Gatchalian proposed.

Pangilinan, on the other hand, said a video record “will put an end to the radically divergent accounts of these police encounters and will protect the public from police abuses and misconduct.”

Gordon proposed that all law enforcers, not only the PNP, be required to wear body cameras.

“The alarming number of abuses necessitates safeguards to protect the citizens of our country and to help in ending the culture of impunity within the ranks of our law enforcement agencies,” said Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.

At the opening of the Senate investigation into Delos Santos’ killing last week, Sen. Grace Poe also pointed out the need for law enforcers to wear body cameras.

Such a device would provide those conducting appropriate investigations or review of cases with indisputable evidence of how operations were carried out and how police responded to alleged resistance to arrests, Poe said.

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TAGS: drug killings, extrajudicial killings, Kian Loyd delos Santos, police body cams, war on drugs
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