MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) could have purchased body cameras for its personnel conducting "Oplan Tokhang" operations last year if not for its purchase of bomb-sniffing dogs worth over half a million each, a senator said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said the PNP could have acquired the body cameras last year but instead opted to purchase 48 bomb-sniffing dogs worth P511,672 each.
Recto said the PNP has around a P5.6-billion budget for police modernization last year.
Of the said amount, P1.9 billion was released on Aug. 10, 2017 by the Department of Budget and Management based on a purchase list submitted by the PNP, the senator said.
"Doon sa P1.9 billion na release, may nakalaan para sa machine guns, boats, motorcycles, anti-riot gear, body vests, pati aso, pero medyo nakaligtaan ang body cams," Recto said.
The senator noted that subsequent releases of funding for the PNP last year could have been used to buy body cams.
"Hopefully, body cams were included in subsequent releases, if there were. By September, may balanse pa na P3.7 billion doon sa P5.6 B na pondo for police modernization," Recto said.
He urged the PNP, which recently relaunched its Oplan Tokhang campaign this week, to prioritize the purchase of body cameras for its men conducting anti-drug operations.
"Kung wala silang nabili na bodycams for the rest of 2017, eh di i-prioritize nila 'yung P334 million para sa bodycams na nasa 2018 budget. Patunayan nila na sa pagbili ng gamit, ang pulis kung umaksyon mabilis," Recto said.
"Body cams should be part of tokhang's reinvention. Nothing conveys good intentions better than an equipment that will record one's best behavior," he added.
Recto said the PNP has a P132.3-billion budget for 2018. Of the said amount, more than 86 percent would go to the pay and allowances of its 181,355 personnel.
For this year, Recto said Congress had authorized P334 million in the 2018 national budget for the new body cams to be worn by police officers.
A P100-million funding has been allotted for the purchase of CCTVs for the PNP.
Other items for procurement are 160 cars, 308 motorcycles, 20 special purpose vehicles, 19 boats, 10,000 sidearms, 5,000 long firearms, among other capital outlay items, Recto added.
"In this age of Facebook Live, and when dashcams are sold on the sidewalk, there's no excuse why our policemen still do not have what is standard police gear in many countries, more so if there are already funds for their purchase," Recto said.
The PNP on Monday relaunched its crackdown on illegal drugs under a fresh set of guidelines in a bid to ensure transparency and prevent suspicion of abuse in the campaign.
The conduct of Tokhang operations has been limited only to daytime on weekdays, deviating from usual nighttime operations that had drawn suspicion of abuses.
Nearly 4,000 people have been killed in drug operations from July 1, 2016 to January 17, 2018 according to the PNP.