THE Philippine National Police leadership headed by Director General Oscar D. Albayalde has maintained that all measures are already in place to protect the human rights of all persons passing through checkpoints that have mushroomed in Metro Manila and the rest of the country to arrest the presence of illegal firearms, partisan armed groups and criminal gangs that may be used to disrupt the holding of a secure and fair May 13 national and local elections.
The PNP chief particularly cited the Police Operational Procedures or POP approved by the PNP leadership in collaboration with the Commission on Human Rights to underscore a very vital function and purpose of law enforcement which is to protect human rights.
Since last January 13, more than 100 civilian gun ban violators have been arrested by the police for carrying firearms and other deadly weapon, said newly-designated PNP spokesman, Senior Superintendent Bernard M. Banac of Philippine Military Academy “Tanglaw Diwa” Class of 1992.
The official said the strict enforcement of the gun ban have also led in the confiscation of over 700 firearms and other deadly weapons including gun replicas, grenades, explosives and assorted live ammunition.
In Metro Manila alone, National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, said the number of gun ban violators in Metro Manila have reached over 70 since last Sunday with more than 100 firearms and other deadly weapons seized by his men since last January 13.
“We have effectively prevented the possibility that these illegal weapons could be used as a tool to commit violence in the streets of the metropolis,” said Eleazar.
Gen. Albayalde said PNP personnel manning the checkpoint must have a presentable appearance, wearing the prescribed PNP uniform. The POP state that likewise, the civilian members must also be in their organization’s uniform with their names conspicuously displayed for identification. In no case shall the civilian components be allowed to bear firearms, the POP states.
In Metro Manila and other major cities, police officers manning checkpoints should not wear Field Service Uniforms (FSU) or black fatigues in lieu of the General Office Attire unless the conduct of checkpoint is a result of a Hot Pursuit Operation or a High Risk Checkpoint.
The use of mixed uniforms (GOA, FSU, black fatigue) in the conduct of checkpoint is strictly prohibited.
The POP also states that as much as possible, the area where the checkpoints shall be established must be properly lighted, with a noticeable signage bearing the name of the PNP unit and the participating organization/s visibly displayed in the checkpoint site to prevent any apprehension from the public of the existence of the same.
Most importantly, the POP states that due courtesy must always be accorded to the motorists, traders and the commuters during the conduct of checkpoint.
It says that the spokesperson must greet the people subject for inspection, ask apology for the inconvenience, appeal for understanding and state the reasons of the operation. The POP also requires the spokesperson of the checkpoint to thank the persons searched.
The POP also states that except in the actual commission of crime during checkpoints or in a hot pursuit operation, the conduct of inspection of vehicle during a routine checkpoint is limited to a visual search and therefore must be done with due respect to innocent motorists.
Gen. Albayalde said there will be a no let-up drive to account for unauthorized weapons that could be used to commit violence during the election period.
Persons caught for violating the gun ban especially law enforcers face penalties such as not less than one year to six years imprisonment, dishonorable discharge from the service and forfeiture of all retirement privileges and benefits. Government employees will also be disqualified from holding any public office once caught violating the ban which will end on June 12, he said.
Searches, seizures and arrest made during checkpoints shall be within the ambit of the law, the PNP chief emphasized.