The Philippine National Police on Tuesday stood its ground that body cameras were advantageous in anti-illegal drug operations, contrary to earlier claims of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano such cameras could endanger the lives of policemen.
PNP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac told reporters the national police command had protocols on what to do and what to avoid in the use of body cameras.
Earlier, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said the police command could acquire at least 3,000 body cameras by 2020 if the post-qualification process of bidders was completed before the yearend.
Vice President Leni Robredo, the newly-appointed co-chairman of the Interagency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs, had previously said body cameras were important in drug operations as they protected both law enforcement agents and the public.
At the same time, Robredo said she would look into whether the government should invest in body cameras.
Meanwhile, Robredo’s camp took a swipe at Cayetano for his tirades that she was leading the drug war “on the wrong mouth.”
Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s lawyer-spokesperson, said Cayetano’s remarks were “very, very disappointing” and “uncalled for.”
In The Source interview over CNN Philippines, Gutierrez said “we are grateful that the bulk of government agencies involved in the anti-drug campaign have expressed support. In fact, even the Palace stated yesterday (Monday) that they were going to support Vice President Leni Robredo, so I think that Speaker Cayetano should reconsider his position here especially given that the vice president hasn’t really been on the job that long.”
The House Speaker, in an earlier CNN Philippines interview, said the Vice President started “on the wrong mouth” as the co-chairperson of ICAD, adding Robredo had dwelt more on “Operation All Talk” from the government’s Operation Tokhang.
He previously said the success or failure of the Vice President as the anti-drug czar would be the success or failure of the country.
Gutierrez said Cayetano’s statements were “contradicting,” asking him to “make up his mind.”
He called on the Speaker to stop the attacks on the Vice President and to help in the campaign against the illegal drugs.
“If the Speaker has nothing to do in helping the Vice President in her job, he must at least stay away from criticizing her,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez reacted to a plan of Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers, House committee on dangerous drugs chairperson, to invite Robredo “soon” so she could lay down her plans in tweaking the government’s anti-drug drive.
He said the invitation was “premature.”
“If she’s called by the lower House, obviously she will go, but the only thing I can say… it will be premature to ask her barely a week into her job to give the full outline, the full comprehensive list of her plans,” he said during the CNN Philippines’ The Source interview.
At the same time, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. expressed support to Robredo’s move to tap the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s help in beefing up the country’s fight against illegal drugs.
“Thank you, Leni. I’ve been trying without success to get us engaged with Vienna’s UNODC which is focused on fighting drug trafficking and dealing, not coddling them like Geneva,” Locsin tweeted.
“UNODC is currently headed by a Russian so we can trust it,” Locsin added.
Yury Fedotov of the Russian Federation leads the UNODC as its executive director since 2010.
Robredo met with UNODC officials on Monday.
“We will give you an update [on the resolutions] after these meetings,” Robredo told reporters.
Meanwhile, Locsin vowed to deny entry of foreign human rights advocate Phelim Kine, former deputy director for Asia of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, a strong critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, if he tried to come into the Philippines to “advise” Robredo on how to end the so-called “murderous” crackdown.
Locsin poked fun at Kine, describing him as Robredo’s “retarded retinue.”
Kine said that he was ready to come to the Philippines anytime to “help advise how to end this murderous ‘drug war’” following the Vice President’s appointment as co-chair of the ICAD.
“[M]y Recommendation No. 1: Arrest #Duterte and his henchmen for inciting & instigating mass murder,” tweeted Kine, who is now a director for research and investigations at the Physicians for Human Rights.
Further disparaging Kine, Locsin retweeted a Twitter user’s comment that the drug war “is not going to go well” when Robredo has “morons for allies.”
“Her retarded retinue. Don’t worry; he can’t get into the country. We have to spare Leni the moral moronism of those who use her,” Locsin declared.
Last July, the Geneva-based UNHRC voted to have an investigation into thousands of killings in Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
Locsin had expressed objection to the said probe, describing it a “travesty” incited by “false information.”
In Camp Crame, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa has said Robredo can focus on how to boost the rehabilitation of illegal drug users.
Gamboa vowed to fully support Robredo, particularly in briefing her about the law enforcement aspect of the anti-drug drive.
“Under her leadership, the PNP looks forward to intensified anti-illegal drug operations and rehabilitation of drug users, upholding the rule of law,” he told a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday.
Gamboa said the PNP was ready for any possible changes in the drug war after Robredo sought its re-assessment.
“In any government approach, [it should be] dynamic because time changes. Personally, I would like to open up options because we had a drug war which I think is very successful. But if there is a need to recalibrate and maybe touch a few points, study it, then the PNP is open to it,” he added.
Gamboa, meanwhile, discouraged Robredo to join anti-illegal drug operations.
“I know it was practically a new thing to her because she has no exposure to it; and of course, there are suggestions for her not to join. She would also be risking her life in that operation,” Gamboa said.
He noted that even ranking police generals do not join anti-drug operations.
In the Senate, conceding that Robredo will need all the help she can get, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, however, said driving the drug war to success would depend on how operatives on the ground would perform.
“You need all the help you can get in order to succeed on this war on drugs, but at the end of the day, your success will depend on how the operatives on the ground would perform,” said Dela Rosa.
Asked on Robredo’s move to seek inputs from UNODC and the US Embassy in addressing the country’s illegal drug problem, Robredo said realities were different on the ground here in the Philippines.
He noted that at the back row level, they would be of help.
“But here on the ground, the realities on the ground in the Philippines is different from the realities on the ground of the United States when it comes to the drug problem. Realities on the ground in Mexico and Colombia are also different.”
Dela Rosa was also known as one of the architects of the administration’s war on drugs.
Meanwhile, opposition Senator Leila de Lima commended Robredo’s unrelenting spirit and determination in solving the worsening illegal drug problem in the country despite early efforts by some administration allies to discredit her.
She said people saw a determined Vice President out to right the wrongs and restore sanity in the enforcement of the drug war, save lives and pursue justice, and pounce on the real drug lords, their cohorts and protectors.
De Lima said she was confident Robredo could provide genuine solution to the country’s illegal drug problems because “she will bring compassion where there is none; and leadership and direction where it is needed.” With PNA