THE Philippine National Police yesterday cautioned the public against chain messages circulating in social media and internet-based messaging groups warning of purported irregular vehicle stops and checkpoints by alleged policemen for extortion.
“We are aware of chain messages circulating in social media and messaging networks from unknown authors containing themes that, in effect, unduly create adverse public opinion that undermines the integrity of the law enforcement and public safety mission of the police,” PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Benigno B. Durana, Jr. said.
He issued the statement amid a viral post in the social media wherein a man claimed that he was stopped at a checkpoint and asked by an officer to open his trunk. When he obliged, he was allowed to leave but got suspicious when he saw the officer making a call on his mobile phone.
The man claimed that he stopped a few distance away from the initial checkpoint and was surprised to see that drugs were placed by the cop in his trunk and he could be in trouble when he passes through another checkpoint in the same area.
The official said that an investigation revealed that those alleged checkpoint incidents did not happen and follow up investigations are ongoing to trace the source of the fake news which aims to sow fear among netizens.
Durana clarified that the PNP Police Operational Procedures (POP) does not allow arbitrary vehicle inspection or random checkpoint unless properly authorized in support of an ongoing operation, subject to prescribed mandatory requirements and limitations.
While it is actually a good idea for the car owner or driver to personally open the trunk lid of his or her car and supervise any visual inspection that will be done, this may only happen if the car owner accedes to any request to allow visual inspection of the car trunk or the glove compartment as required in the Revised POP, he explained.
As a general rule, the Revised POP allows only visual inspection of the car’s passenger cabin and other sections of the vehicle that are visible from the outside, Durana said.
He said the possibility of planting of evidence may be farfetched, but there are effective counter-measures in the law to prevent this.
Durana cited Section 29 of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that prescribes the penalty of death for “any person who is found guilty of “planting” any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical, regardless of quantity and purity.”
More than respect for the rule of law, the key element here is the awareness of basic rights and responsibilities as citizens, said the PNP spokesperson.