PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief, General Debold M. Sinas yesterday cited the importance of equipping police stations and units with evidence vaults to preserve the integrity of pieces of evidence and other documents being recovered as a result of police operations and investigations in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.
Sinas emphasized this as he turned over nine brand-new evidence vaults to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director, Brigadier Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr. for use of the metropolitan police force.
The PNP chief initiated the procurement of evidence vaults when he was still the NCRPO chief and said it should be a PNP ‘Best Practice’ as the organization provides standardized guidelines for various aspects of the evidence and property function.
Sinas said the importance of having quality evidence vaults in the police force cannot be overstated since they have a legal obligation to store and protect items of evidence and property in their custody.
Second and equally important too is that the PNP has the obligation to legally restore property to the rightful owners as soon as practical or once ordered by the court and at the same time dispose of the evidence specifically seized prohibited drugs in a legal manner.
As part of its modernization program, the PNP has seen the need to understand and appreciate the necessity of the evidence and its preservation to help ensure a court conviction. Thus, the PNP has been on a mission to receive, catalog, safely store and maintain the integrity of recovered evidence and other properties and documents for safekeeping.
The 25th PNP chief pursued the program when he was still the PNP Crime Laboratory director before becoming the Police Regional Office 7 head in Central Visayas and later as NCRPO chief before being replaced by anao last November 10.
Danao said that at present, the Northern Police District and Quezon City Police District are equipped with similar vaults fashioned out from heavy steel with imported dial combination lock and six adjustable shelves. Each vault stands at 72 inches, with a 72-inch width and 24-inch depth.
Danao extended his profound gratitude to the PNP Chief and assured that the equipment will be used to preserve, secure and store physical evidence and other pertinent documents gathered during criminal investigations and police operations.
“It is a fact that for a case to prosecute and suspects be convicted, every piece of evidence needs to be properly collected and preserved so that it may one day be acceptable in court. Importante ito especially on the illegal drugs cases, na nagiging reason ng nawawala ang ebidensya o nairerecycle. Gayundin sa mga firearms at iba pang paraphernalia na nakukuha kung kaya nadidismiss ang mga kaso. Maraming salamat sa biyaya at tulong at patuloy na biyayang natatanggap ng Team NCRPO. Let’s vault in!,” the NCRPO director told his men accepting the vaults from Sinas.
As a standard policy, police needs to turn over seized drug evidence to the PNP Crime Laboratory within 24 hours after the arrest and seizure is made.
Danao said the evidence vaults are important not only in preventing the possibility of having tampered evidence but most importantly in preserving pieces of evidence including drugs, weapons and other documents recovered in NCRPO anti-criminality operations and other missions in Metro Manila.
At present, tampering with evidence by the police or a private person is a criminal offense in the country. Evidence tampering is described as an act in which a person alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys evidence with the intent to interfere with an investigation by a law-enforcement, governmental, or regulatory authority.
Tampering with evidence is also closely related to obstruction of justice and perverting the course of justice since their usual goal is to cover up a crime or with intent to injure a person accused of a crime.
Thus, evidence recovered in a crime scene must be well-preserved with investigators starting from the first on the scene and later, members of the Scene-of-the-Crime Operatives or SOCO Team of the PNP Crime Lab under specific orders to ensure their integrity.
Investigators collecting pieces of evidence in a crime scene are required to put hand gloves and are not allowed to touch the evidence specifically guns with their bare hands due to the fingerprints left by the suspect or suspects.