Public has right to video police

Archie Francisco F. Gamboa

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, Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa said yesterday.

Reacting to a Journal Group question, the country’s top cop said he has directed Joint Task Force COVID Shield headed by Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar to ‘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,” Gamboa said.

“Whether media or not, it is allowed,” the PNP chief said although he admitted that they have to revisit the matter. “It would require orientation although there a thin line dividing here. What’s the problem kung kukuhanan ka ng video? Ang problema lang is kung babaligtarin ang story using the video. I think this should be understood by our men,” he added.

“There’s nothing wrong here I think but we have to come up with clear guidelines,” he added.

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 napansi na may marked vehicle ng medi 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.

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.