A SENATE COMMITTEE is backing the creation of a special court that will handle cases of abuse involving police officers to reform the Philippine National Police (PNP) and better protect the public.
The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, is pushing for Senate Bill No. 1399 or the “Police Court Act of 2017”, which is already on second reading. “The objective of the bill is to shine the spotlight of responsibility on the law in the matter of police cases involving violation of constitutional rights, as well as crimes perpetrated by police officers upon the public,” Gordon, the bill’s author and sponsor, said.
Apart from Gordon, the bill was also authored by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Loren Legarda. The bill, Gordon said, will mandate the creation of a special court to be designated as the Police Law Enforcement Court or “Police Court” among existing Regional Trial Courts (RTCs), which will have original exclusive jurisdiction “on all civil and criminal cases involving the abuse of authority of members of the PNP, whether in or off duty.”
The Police Court will handle cases arising out of violations by a member of the PNP of its operational procedures, rules of engagement and other protocols, as well as complaints for violation of constitutional rights involving police officers. Gordon added that the Police Court would also have original jurisdiction on cases involving the writ of habeas corpus “when there is evidence that the victim is held under the custody of any of the members of the PNP.”
The bill will also mandate the creation of an “Appellate Police Court” among the divisions of the Court of Appeals (CA) that will tackle appeals coming from the Police Court. Under the bill, he said the Supreme Court will provide periodic and continuous program for training “so that they would be familiar with police procedures in terms of rules of engagement.”
Gordon said the reforms under Senate Bill 1399 are meant to provide an impartial and speedy disposition of complaints for violations of constitutional rights and PNP rules and procedures, “free from the ‘kabaro’ (colleague) system.”
He said much is to be desired in the pace of prosecuting abusive police officers, noting the performance of the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS), the body authorized to conduct investigations and hearings on PNP members facing administrative charges.
As of August 2016, the IAS has reported only 839 pending cases, while the National Police Commission data from 2010 to 2015 showed 1,255 cases pending against nearly 4,000 police officers, Gordon said. “It takes years for a simple administrative matter to put a policeman under the heel of discipline,” he pointed out. The bill, he added, is also a “cogent involvement and intervention by the legislature on the issues of extrajudicial killings, salvaging and riding-in-tandem crime.”
“The police must be expected to perform their duties vigorously but, in so doing, they have no license to use overwhelming force or eliminate criminals acting as judge, jury and executioner. There are no shortcuts, and the police force must follow the rules of engagement and the rule of law in their operations against illegal drugs and other criminal activities,” Gordon said.
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