MANILA - Police officers accused of killing soldiers at a Sulu checkpoint in June should appear in Senate hearings wearing detainee attire instead of cop uniforms as this dishonors the service, Sen. Francis Tolentino said Wednesday.
Tolentino made the remark as senators looked into the death of 4 soldiers in Jolo, Sulu in the hands of 9 policemen on June 29 - an incident that pitted the police force against the military.
The senator said he would formally write to the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to require that "police officers under detention should be wearing appropriate detention uniform."
"I think it places dishonor and disrespect to the bereaved army officers. I think the more appropriate attire would be for accused to be wearing detainee shirts not the uniforms which gives dishonor to the PNP as an organization because hindi naman po madumi talaga ang kapulisan, marami pong upright police officers," he said.
(The police is force is not really dirty, there are many upright police officers.)
"I respect their constitutional right of innocence but we should give respect to Senate as an institution, PNP as an institution, by wearing the appropriate attire."
PNP chief Dir. Gen. Archie Gamboa, however, said the 9 policemen are not under detention and have not been charged in court.
"If you require them... in detainee uniform, in my own opinion as chief of PNP is not proper. This as a formal gathering of which we represent institutions that’s why as a matter of protocol those appearing in the Senate must always be in uniform," he said.
"We cannot allow our policemen appearing in the Senate wearing the detainee uniform when in fact they are not yet so."
The PNP would be "very glad" to turn over the policemen to court once they are charged, Gamboa added.
Tolentino said he made the suggestion after receiving several messages from viewers of the hearing.
"Co-mingling persons accused of serious offenses with police hierarchy in an institution such as (the) Senate probably brings confusion in the minds of general public who are watching right now," he said.
The senator later said he was mistaken when he mentioned that cases were already filed against the police officers but insisted that the Senate dictates the conduct of proceedings in its plenary hall.
"I still maintain with all due respect to chief PNP Gamboa that when it comes to proceedings in the Senate, in a committee, the rules of the Senate would be plenus and comprehensive. Meaning to say the committee dictates who will be invited, the terms of investigation, and with all due respect even the dress code," he said.
"I might have a mistake but that was just a suggestion, puwedeng nasabi kong T-shirt ng detainee, puwede na rin po sigurong magsuot ng civilian. Kagaya nung operation na nangyari sa Jolo, naka-civilian din 'yung iba."
(Maybe they can wear civilian clothes just like some officers during the incident in Jolo.)
The National Bureau of Investigation last month filed murder and planting of evidence charges against the 9 policemen.
The Philippine Army earlier described the incident as "murder" as it said the soldiers, who were pursuing Abu Sayyaf bombmakers at the time, identified themselves at a police checkpoint and complied with the cops' request to stop by the police station.
Police initially said the soldiers, who were not wearing their uniform and were on board a sports utility vehicle, sped past a checkpoint. They allegedly pointed their guns at policemen, which prompted the shooting.