On Friday, the Supreme Court issued rules obligating authorities to use body cameras in the filing of warrants.
The body camera and another alternative recording device must be turned on upon arrival at the place where any arrest will be made under an arrest warrant or search under a search warrant.
If possible, a body camera will also be used in instances of warrantless arrests, such as the latter in the act of committing a crime by a suspect.
If the body camera is not turned on and there is no reasonable reason, the court may not accept the evidence gathered during the search.
But in the case of an arrest with the validity of an arrest warrant, there will be no issue with the evidence gathered in connection with the arrest.
In both cases, the police can be contempt of court if they do not use a body camera.
Arrest and search policies are different. Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te explained that the arrest warrant has already gone through the prosecutor and the court. They have found a basis to arrest a person, and the person to be arrested already knows about the case.
New SC policy on body cameras, search and arrest warrants
But with a search warrant, you can even get a search warrant in court without the person subject knowing it, so the rule is stricter.
“In a search warrant, it is a unilateral process. The law enforcers are not required to let the person know that they are carrying out, planning to carry out a search, they are applying for a search warrant… In an arrest, a person is aware that a case has been filed against him or her, a preliminary investigation has been conducted, and that the case might probably be filed with the court,” said Te.
But there are some instances where not using a body camera is excused, such as malfunctioning or being damaged without the police knowing.
There may also be no body camera when the police talk to undercover or confidential informants or when the police are at home or in a private place.
However, human rights groups welcomed it.
“Di natin sinasabi na ang body cameras ay ang sagot para sa hustisya, ang sagot para sa accountability. Pero, at the very least, this will make the officers conduct themselves in a more responsible and a more right-respecting manner,” said Carlos Conde, Human Rights Watch senior Philippines researcher.