Why did PNP buy bomb-sniffing dogs instead of body cameras?

PUPS PRIORITIZED. The PNP presents newly acquired K-9 dogs in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

PUPS PRIORITIZED. The PNP presents newly acquired K-9 dogs in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

Senator Ralph Recto on Tuesday, January 30, publicly chastised top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for buying bomb-sniffing dogs instead of body cameras, opening gates to another flood of criticism for the men in blue.

Why, many asked, didn’t the PNP immediately purchase body cameras with their 2017 budget despite the clamor for the gadgets?

The answer is simple: The budget was planned earlier, way back during the last months of 2016 when the PNP was just starting their war on drugs – before the rise of the much-contested “extrajudicial killings”, and about a full year before the teen killings in Caloocan City. The clamor for cameras came later, and so did the consideration to buy them.

During the crafting of the PNP 2017 budget, less priority natin yan so pagdating sa 2018 budget na-craft last year we felt the heat kaya nag-rereact kami sa inyo mga kritiko (it was less prioritized, but for the 2018 that we crafted last year, we felt the heat that's why we're reacting to you, critics),” PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa admitted to reporters on Thursday, February 1.

To recall, during the 2016 budget deliberations season, one of the biggest problems of the PNP was not the criticism of the newly started drug war then, but the night market bombing in Davao City.

All of it changed only when the killings were too controversial to ignore in 2017, Dela Rosa admitted.

Back in 2016, Dela Rosa was irate about strapping body cameras to cops, but by the end of 2017, he shifted and wanted to require the gadgets in anti-drug operations.

It wasn't also just a problem of prioritization.

Even if the PNP had wanted to procure the cameras in 2017, they couldn't easily reset their budget midway into the year, Dela Rosa said.

Eh kung hindi na kailangan ng bidding eh bigay pera sa amin at bili kaagad kami...Bakit ganun ba 'yung bidding procedures natin na kung ano gusto mo, sige punta kayo sa Divisoria, bili kayo doon?” Dela Rosa said.

(If we had not needed to conduct bidding before we got the money, then we could have bought immediately. Is that our bidding procedure? That when we want something, we can already buy it in Divisoria?)

Dela Rosa was seconded by PNP Director for Logistics Chief Superintendent Jovic Ramos, who explained that the procurement of body cameras would have needed a new procurement plan and specifications for the gadgets. (READ: Will body cameras solve alleged police abuse in the drug war?)

They only generated the specs midway in 2017, after consulting with the National Police Commission (Napolcom). With a new budget coming for 2018, the PNP is targeting the distribution of the cameras by June.

Will the PNP's priorities change again anytime soon? – 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.