QC to strengthen complaint body vs police, law enforcement abuse

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
QC to strengthen complaint body vs police, law enforcement abuse
File photo dated March 18 shows members of the Quezon City Police District disinfect vehicles entering at the Camp Karingal in Quezon City as part of their precautionary measures against the spread of the COVID-19.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte issued an Executive Order reorganizing and further strengthening the People's Law Enforcement Board (PLEB), a desk for citizens to air grievances over any cases of abuse committed by policemen.

According to the city government Saturday evening, Belmonte, in her order, designated lawyer Rafael Calinisan as Executive Officer of the PLEB, which is mandated to hear out complaints on police and law enforcement elements. 

"We concede that policemen are our indispensable partners for peace and order. However, let it be known that in Quezon City, abusive behavior of policemen will not be tolerated,” Calinisan said. 

“Here, what is most important is that we protect and uphold the Constitutional rights of our people. Your People's Law Enforcement Board will make sure of that. We will be fair. But we will administer justice without fear or favor. We pledge to make the PLEB relevant and responsive to the needs of the people. There will be swift justice," he added.

Under Republic Act 6975, cities and municipalities must have at least one People's Law Enforcement Board to "hear and decide citizen's complaints or cases filed before it against erring officers and members of the PNP."

PLEBs include a member of the local government council, a barangay captain chosen by the Association of Barangay Captains, "and three other members who shall be chosen by the peace and order council from among the respected members of the community known for their probity and integrity."

One of those three members must be a lawyer, "or, in the absence thereof, a college graduate, or the principal of the central elementary school in the locality."

The board is authorized by virtue of Republic Acts No. 6975 and 8551 "to mete out heavy penalties against erring policemen," the city said. 

"Among them are withholding of privileges, restriction to specified limits, suspension or forfeiture of salary, or any combination thereof, for a period exceeding 30 days; or by dismissal," it added. 

'One Time, Big Time operations'

On Thursday, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, chief of the Philippine National Police, issued a statement reminding cops manning quarantine control points to adhere to the agency's ethical standards and warning of consequences for breaking guidelines.

This comes days after personnel of the Quezon City Police District along with the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety staged a "One Time, Big Time" operation tightening enforcement of mandatory face mask-wearing protocols all over the city.

As a result, over 1,000 violators were brought to the Amoranto Stadium on Wednesday where QCPD "processed them for proper disposition."

Among those apprehended was journalist and COVID-19 survivor Howie Severino, who said in a post on social media after the incident that he was accosted for briefly taking off his mask to take a sip from his drink. 

In a statement issued by the QCPD, Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, QCPD director, said: "after Severino explained, they found out that his reason was valid and reasonable prompting them to let him go."

READ: Journalist accosted for quarantine breach

"Tama naman po yung ginawa nila na yung mga ganun ay i-consider. Kung titignan natin, ito po ay minor offense lamang, pero dahil sa ito ay isa sa mga pinanggagalingan ng COVID-19, mabigat po ito sa atin at kailangan nating seryosohin," he added. 

(They did the right thing and things like that should be considered. If we look, it is only a minor offense, but since it is one of the sources of COVID-19, it is a burden to us and we need to take it seriously.)

Ethical standards that officers of the law are expected to adhere to include a commitment to democracy, public service, non-partisanship, and respect for human rights. The agency's doctrine is a public document that anyone can access. 

In the city government's statement, Calinisan said people are not aware of PLEB’s existence and its role in dispensing justice for the victims of police abuse. 

"Hopefully with the issuance of this Executive Order, residents of Quezon City would become more familiar with the PLEB, and would make use of this mechanism to report erring policemen, if needed,” said Belmonte.

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