PDEA changes mind, requires body cameras in drug war

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) now requires its agents to wear body cameras during their operations.

PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino signed on Monday, January 22, a memorandum detailing the use of body cameras by operatives and witnesses during anti-drug operations. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: PDEA on leading the drug war without the PNP)

“Agents and witnesses, particularly media representatives shall mandatorily wear body cameras,” the memorandum acquired by Rappler read.

The order added to PDEA’s December 12, 2017 order which just “encourages” its agents to wear body cameras when they’re available. With this new directive, agents cannot say no to strapping the gadgets once these have been delivered.

Under the same December order, PDEA required its operatives to invite media personnel to operations. Aquino, a former policeman, has repeatedly said that the presence of media will provide transparency and will quash doubts about their operations.

PDEA’s counterpart agents in the Philippine National Police, meanwhile, remained “encouraged” to wear body cameras. PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa defended the decision not to require them as they haven’t procured enough body cameras to make them mandatory.

It was unfair, the top cop said, to require what they could not provide. It's easier for the PDEA to make them mandatory as they have only about 1,000 agents nationwide. (READ: Police in Manila, Davao among first to get body cameras for drug war)

Under present rules, the PNP needs clearance from PDEA before executing anti-narcotics operations. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.