Supreme Court OKs use of police body cameras during warrant execution

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2021 10:16 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2021 02:18 AM

Supreme Court OKs use of police body cameras during warrant execution 1
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Police General Guillermo Eleazar shows a unit of body-worn cameras during their launch for police personnel held inside the Camp Crame in Quezon City on June 4, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA (UPDATE)- The Supreme Court en banc has approved the use of body-worn cameras when law enforcement authorities hand out arrest, search, and seizure warrants. 

In a 16-paged resolution dated June 29, the High Court said a law enforcement personnel should have a body-worn camera and an alternative recording device when implementing arrest warrants. 

If a body-worn camera is unavailable "for justifiable reasons," the SC said an officer should file an ex parte motion for the use of an alternative camera device. If the motion is approved, the officer should have two. 

Law enforcement personnel should also inform the person to be arrested that they are serving the warrant and they are recording it. 

"The officers having such cameras shall ensure that they are worn in a conspicuous location and in a manner that maximize their ability to capture a recording of the arrest," the SC en banc's resolution read.

Failure to do so, according to the magistrates, would not automatically render the arrest as unlawful and the evidence obtained as "inadmissible." 

"Facts surrounding the arrest may be proved by the testimonies of the arresting officers, the person arrested, and other witnesses to the arrest," the resolution pointed out. 

"However, a law enforcement officer who fails, without reasonable grounds, to use body-worn cameras or alternative recording devices, or intentionally interferes with the body-worn cameras' ability to accurately capture audio and video recordings of the arrest... may be liable for contempt of court." 

This includes the manipulation of video recording during or after the arrest, the High Court said. 

A person may be exempted from the liability if the body cameras were not activated due to malfunction or if the officer was not aware of that malfunction, according to the magistrates.

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The memory cards where the recording was stored will be submitted to the court who ordered the warrant "in a sealed package." 

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar expressed his gratitude to the top court for the legal framework. 

"Our next step is to study and incorporate the rules issued by the High Court into our own protocols para magamit na ang ating mga body-worn cameras na siya namang hinihintay ng ating mga kababayan," he said in a statement.

Before this, SC justices and the Philippine National Police had two meetings regarding the matter. 

The first meeting was held on April 22 this year, following SC’s rare March 23 statement stressing the need to craft rules on law enforcers’ use of body cameras and expressing concern over reports of threats, harassments, killings of lawyers.

Human rights lawyers have previously called on the Supreme Court to review the rules on the issuance and implementation of search warrants after simultaneous raids in Batangas, Cavite and Rizal ended up in the killing of 9 activists.

Police have claimed that in all 9 instances, the activists supposedly fought back and resisted arrest.

As evidence, police presented guns, ammunitions and grenades supposedly recovered from the possession of the deceased.

Relatives and witnesses, however, have contested the police’s version of the events.