Good move | Inquirer Opinion

Good move

/ 05:12 AM June 17, 2018

The public presentation of crime suspects, the Philippines’ version of “perp walks,” has long been a modus operandi of the police.

These presentations invariably involve the arresting authorities parading captured suspects before the media, for their faces to be photographed or recorded on video and their supposed crimes detailed for the public record.


The suspects, wearing orange shirts, sometimes even bearing signs of injury, stand meekly in front of the cameras, holding up nameplates for easy identification while the policemen bark at them to stand straight or look at the cameras.

The cops see these presentations as necessary — for the media to report the apprehension of crime suspects, and for themselves to let the public know they’re doing their job.


But this procedure, as many have noted, represents a grotesque theater of presumption, a grandstanding act of basic injustice. The suspects have yet to be tried in a court of law, and are thus innocent until proven guilty.

In 2008, then Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Leila de Lima decried the practice.

“For as long as necessary, we will continue to issue these statements on violations specific to law enforcement agents, such… [as] the indiscriminate parading of suspects to the media, a practice which, I must note with much chagrin, has not stopped,” she said.

That same year, Philippine National Police  Director General Jesus Verzosa issued an order banning the procedure.

Unfortunately, the practice was resurrected and became standard operating procedure again under the Duterte administration and former PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa.

And with the administration’s drug war in full swing, there was no lack of suspects to haul before the public.

In December 2017, the PNP launched a mobile app meant to educate policemen on human rights (called “Know Your Rights”)—only for cops to parade a suspected hitman in a media briefing just hours later.


Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, national chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group and the dean of De La Salle University College of Law, protested that the suspect “should not have been presented to the media, because being an accused means he already has a case in court. The publicity generated by the news conference might affect the objectivity of the court.”

New PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde appears to have taken cognizance of these concerns. In a move that has been welcomed by human rights observers, the PNP recently announced it is doing away with the practice.

Albayalde gave the assurance “that no suspects, even common criminals, will be paraded before the media, because we already have a long-standing policy about this” — referring to Verzosa’s 2008 directive.

“There are other actions we can take to provide information,” added National Capital Region Police Office director, Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar.

PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. also said the policy will balance the public’s right to information with the need to protect suspects’ rights.

“We can be tough on crime while upholding the rule of law,” he said in a text message to reporters.

Praising the decision, the CHR noted that the move worked with “human rights standards on due process and presumption of innocence.”

The militant group Karapatan called it “a long overdue correction of a malicious act violative of due process… [and the] rights of individuals accused of crimes, especially those who were arbitrarily or illegally arrested on fabricated offenses by the military and/or police.”

The PNP deserves commendation for this good move. But there is much more it needs to do to uphold the basic human rights of citizens in its operations.

As Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch wrote, “If Albayalde is really serious about transforming the Philippine National Police into an organization that will ‘observe due process,’ he needs to do a lot more than just end ‘perp walks.’ He needs to stop his police officers from gunning down drug suspects and passing these summary executions off as justified because the suspects allegedly ‘fought back.’”

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TAGS: CHR, Commission on Human Rights, Inquirer editorial, Jose Manuel Diokno, Leila de Lima, Oscar Albayalde, PNP
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