PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, has ordered the PNP Legal Service to come up with clear guidelines on how a policeman in uniform should react when his video is being taken by the public, the Journal Group learned.
The PNP chief also maintained that unless they are not committing any breach of national security and are not violating the cop’s privacy, the public including motorists have all the right to take videos of the police in the streets specifically when they are being asked to stop for a routine check and other reasons.
According to Gen. Gamboa, he has directed the Joint Task Force COVID Shield headed by Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar to ‘remind our people when is maximum tolerance maximum’ in the wake of an incident in which a television reporter cried foul when he was accosted by policemen as he was taking their video in Marikina City.
“It should be within every situation, 2nd, we should also remind our personnel kelan mo puwedeng bawalan ang isang tao na kumuha ng video. That should be clear. Kung hindi involved sa national security which is very broad and it doesn’t violate private rights, then everybody is authorized to get a video.
That’s the general rule. Let’s not pertain to specific classes of the society. That’s the general rule, everybody is authorized to get a video whether he’s from media or not because freedom of expression still exists in the Philippines,” Gen. Gamboa said.
The Marikina City incident prompted the PNP chief to require the PNP Directorate for Operations and the Joint Task Force COVID Shield to ‘revisit’ the matter and disseminate to all their personnel the legal aspect pertaining to the taking of video in public.
“We also have to remind our personnel to keep their cool. Tao lang kasi, paminsan-minsan mainit ang ulo, matagal na sa checkpoints pero it’s not a reason for them not to observe basic tenets as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights,” the PNP chief said.
Gen. Gamboa however admitted it would require a thorough orientation. “Ang inisip kasi ng pulis, ang trabaho ko involves national security although there’s a thin line defining that, pero sa tingin ko dapat idefine. Pag ako, sa tingin ko, pag huhulihin ka, pinapaaral ko sa Legal Service, ano ang problema kung kukuhanan ka ng video,”
“There’s nothing wrong with that I think. Ang problema lang eh pag naiba ang ikuwento mo sa social media post mo, baliktarin mo ang kuwento. Yun ang delikado,” he said
“But of course, being public servant, we should not be onion-skinned. We’re up for public scrutiny but this should be properly understood by our policemen especially those on the ground,” he explained.
“Kaya pinapaaral ko and the results should be properly disseminated. But ang tingin ko dun tayo papunta. But for me, there’s nothing wrong,. If pulis ka manning a checkpoint, you’re a public figure, sometimes you don’t even have your private rights with you since you execute a public function,. But we have to study and come up with clear guidelines dito on how our policemen should behave on this, dun tayo papunta,” he said.
The PNP chief said he has told Lt. Gen. Eleazar to simply ‘remind our people when maximum tolerance is maximum.’
“We also have to remind our men kung kelan puwedeng bawalan ang tao na nagbi-video. Everybody is allowed to take a video pag hindi ito breach of national security or is not violating one’s privacy,” Gen. Gamboa said.
The issue was raised amid the controversy generated by an incident in Marikina City last week wherein DzBB reporter Mark Macalalad accused officers manning a quarantine control point along the Marcos Highway of ‘intimidating’ him when they took and inspected his phone while he was taking a video of the traffic situation in the area as part of his live report. The radioman also scored the alleged unnecessary ‘baka kalaban ako’ comment made by one of the policemen.
However, Marikina City Police Station commander, Colonel Restituto Arcangel defended his men from their actions. “I don’t think our troops did something inappropriate considering the circumstances. Hindi nila nakilala si Mark Macalalad dahil hindi siya naka-uniform, walang ID, hindi nila napansin na may marked vehicle ng media and then, yung gamit niya ay cellphone lang at hindi yung usual na camera typically used by the media,” said the official.
Arcangel said that two policemen and two Marine troopers manning the QCP merely approached Macalalad to ask him why he was taking a video of their deployment.
He also apologized to Macalalad for the unfortunate incident and the radioman accepted the apology.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar said there are no specific guidelines yet on the matter but as a matter of courtesy, ‘it would be preferable or better to inform the personnel manning the checkpoint if you will be doing recording or live reporting nearby.’
In the United States and other modern countries, drivers and anybody being accosted by the police uses their cell phone video to automatically record their encounter with officers. Policemen in those modernized countries don’t see nothing wrong with the practice and even give their names and badge number once asked by the person making the video recording.
However, unless there is a specific guideline on the video-recording of PNP members, members of the police force who are not used to having their operations and other activities like making a vehicle stop or serving a search warrant or warrant of arrest recorded on video by civilians are expected to resent it.
In many cases, police say they don’t want their identities exposed in the future and be targeted of criminal reprisals. However, many are also of the belief that using a cell phone camera to record an encounter with the police will help minimize possible police abuses and other infractions since a concerned officer knows that his actions are being recorded.