Do a Duterte to see how checkpoints are being conducted

January 15, 2019

ALTHOUGH PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde said the other day that there has been no reported complaints regarding the way police checkpoints are being conducted over the past few years , I think that concerned officials should do what President Duterte had been doing when he was still the mayor of Davao City: pose as an ordinary citizen to see how things were actually being done in the streets.

When President Duterte was still mayor, he is known to pose as a taxi driver to know what his constituents really feel, know their problems and find quick solutions to them. That act can be followed by our police chiefs to see how their men are performing particularly when it comes to dealing with the common ‘tao.’

I wish that any of our police officials will disguise as an ordinary citizen clad in a simple man’s shirt and without any bodyguards in tow and go visit a police station or drive a 2nd-hand car or a taxi in an area where checkpoints have been established and see how things are really being done.

I thought of this after a friend who happened to be a local politician told me of his experience months ago when he visited a police station. Not identifying himself, my friend said that he was surprised to hear a desk sergeant shouting at a poor complainant and literally scolding the latter. The cop only apologized when my angry friend introduced himself and asked him to call his superiors. That’s police-community relations at work, he told me.

Now that checkpoints have mushroomed across the country, it’s also high time for undercover officers to personally observe how our policemen are doing their job in enforcing the gun ban. Shortly after midnight last Saturday, I saw motorists smiling after realizing that the very courteous officers supervising a checkpoint in Quezon City were no less than Gen. Albayalde and NCRPO chief, Director Gilor Eleazar.

However, the situation may be reversed if motorists would find themselves encountering non-smiling, heavily-armed cops as they pass thru a checkpoint while on their way home. It could be part of their training to always be firm but remember than a man’s behavior may change anytime especially when he has to literally deal with other things like a family problem while at work .This is just a reminder.

On Monday, Gen. Albayalde called on drivers to always slow down, dim your headlights, turn on your cabin lights, don’t panic and  most importantly, don’t attempt to evade our checkpoints. He issued the appeal as the PNP began enforcing a 150-day nationwide gun ban past midnight Saturday in their effort to arrest the proliferation of illegal weapons that could be used to disrupt the May 13 national and local elections.

Gen. Albayalde said that drivers and passengers of motorcycles and motor vehicles are both subject to a routine check each time they pass in a checkpoint. The guidance for the police, he added is that there must only be a visual check.

The PNP chief boasted that over the past two years, they haven’t received complaints regarding policemen who were displaying improper behavior and attitude while manning checkpoints.  “Maybe it’s because of the fact that we’ve been telling our men almost daily to exercise utmost courtesy when dealing with the public particularly when enforcing checkpoints,” Gen. Albayalde told me.

The PNP chief said that officers manning the checkpoints have been thoroughly lectured on the Police Operational Procedures or POP approved by the PNP leadership in collaboration with the Commission on Human Rights to underscore a very vital function and purpose of law enforcement-which is to protect human rights.

The PNP-POP states that the checkpoint must be led by an officer with the rank of at least Police Inspector; must have officially marked vehicles with blinkers turned on; must be manned by policemen wearing the prescribed PNP uniform and must have a presentable appearance; and must be placed in well and properly-lit areas with a noticeable signage bearing the name of the PNP unit visible displayed in the checkpoint site to prevent any apprehension from the public of the existence of the same.

It says that the team leader has the responsibility to check if his men are in the prescribed uniform, meaning, the policemen conducting the checkpoint shall display their nameplates at all times. If wearing a jacket, the flap of the jacket bearing their names should also be displayed.

Likewise, the equipment will include but not limited to the following: marked patrol vehicles; firearms with basic load of ammunition; handheld and vehicle base radios; flashlights; megaphone; video camera; and signage showing the warning signs like Slowdown Checkpoint Ahead, Checkpoint 20 Meters Ahead, etc.

PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Bong Durana told me that that the general public must be aware of the following rules on military/police checkpoints which are being intensified. # Checkpoint must be well-lighted, properly identified and manned by uniformed person.  # Upon approach, slowdown, dim headlights and turn on cabin lights. Never step out of the vehicle.; # Lock all doors. Only visual search is allowed. # Do not submit to a physical or body search. #You are not obliged to open glove compartment, trunk or bags. #Ordinary/Routine questions may be asked. Be courteous but firm with answers. #Assert your rights, have presence of mind and do not panic. #Keep your driver’s license and car registration handy and within reach. #Be ready to use your cell phone at any time. Speedily dial emergency numbers. #Report violations immediately. Your actions may save others.

Durana  said that the PNP-POP states that due courtesy must be accorded to the motorists, traders and the commuters during the conduct of checkpoint and the designated checkpoint spokesperson must greet the people subject for inspection, extend apology for the inconvenience, appeal for understanding and state the reasons of the operation. Upon completion, the officer must thank the person/s checked.

Except in the actual commission of crime during checkpoints or in a hot pursuit operation, the conduct of inspection of vehicle during a routine checkpoint is limited to visual search and therefore must be done with due respect to innocent passers-by, commuters or bystanders and be conducted in a manner that is least inconvenient to the public. Searches, seizures and arrests made during checkpoints shall be within the ambit of the law, Durana explained to me.