“We, in the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, are all aware of how difficult it is to observe human rights especially in the face of combat operations. But as law enforcers, we are highly obligated to exert efforts to make international humanitarian principles a reality”, enunciated by PCSupt Valfrie G Tabian, Acting Regional Director of Police Regional Office (PRO) 4A, who was the official representative of PDG Ronald M Dela Rosa, Chief of the Philippine National Police, during the closing ceremony of the first leg of the 2016 International Humanitarian Law Training for the territorial forces of the AFP and PNP held on July 13, 2016 at La belle Brasserie, Tagaytay Highlands, Tagatay City, Philippines.

Consistent with one of the process excellence objectives of the Performance Governance System-PNP P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 which is to improve public safety awareness through community oriented and human rights-based policing, the Philippine National Police through the Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO), in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, successfully conducted the first leg of said IHL Training which was participated by the Regional Police Human Rights Officers, Battalion/Company Commanders of  Special Action Force, Regional and Provincial Public Safety Battalion/Companies of  PROs 4A, 4B, 5, National Capital Region Police Office and AFP.

“The conduct of trainings on International Humanitarian Law is a crucial step in reinforcing our commitment to uphold human rights and dignity in times of peace but more so during armed conflict situations and it must be deeply internalized by our territorial forces which are exposed to the harsh realities of crime, terrorism, and insurgency”, said PCSupt Dennis A.Siervo, Chief, Human Rights Affairs Office of the PNP.

On other hand, Atty. Evecar Cruz-Ferrer, ICRC Legal Adviser and IHL Coordinator explained that by conducting training sessions or providing expertise and materials to support IHL instruction for the security sector, the ICRC pursued its long-term goal of ensuring the sectors’ autonomy in IHL training and the integration of IHL (and human rights law in the case of the police) into their doctrine, manuals and operational procedures.

Discussions delved on the Basics and Principles of IHL, International Policing Standards: Use of Force & Firearms, ICRC and Police, RA No. 9851 (Domestic IHL), RA No. 9745 (Anti-Torture Law), Human Rights-Based Policing, Community Based Dialogue, and  RA No. 10353 (An Act Defining and Penalizing Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance).

Further, some of the salient issues raised during the two-day Training/Workshop include, but not limited to, the following:  

  1. Media and Human Rights Activists exploit intensified buy-bust operations being conducted by the PNP and link them to the extra-judicial killing of drug pushers and drug lords;
  2. Growing concern on police personnel allegedly resorting to the excessive use of force during police operations;
  3. Incidents wherein suspects were shot by police personnel inside the police stations;
  4. Congestion of Police Custodial Facilities by reason of sudden influx of arrested suspects apprehended in buy-bust operations, saturation drive and checkpoints as a result of one time-big time police operations; and
  5. The need to segregate Persons under Police Custody with Contagious Diseases as well as Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender (LGBTs) under police custody.

 In order to address the said issues, the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office has recommended to the Chief, PNP the following action points: 

  1. For the PNP to make mandatory the installation of audio-video recording equipments in the investigating rooms of all Police Stations which can be used as a proof about the proper, fair, and legal conduct of police investigation in defense to possible harassment suits or media exploitation;
  2. Re-train police personnel in proper arrest procedures with emphasis on non-lethal tactics, weapons retention techniques, and officer safety measures;
  3. Re-orient police personnel about the Use of Force Doctrine with emphasis on the use of lethal weapon only as a last resort;
  4. Ensure conduct of periodic neuro-psychiatric examinations, stress management, and counseling services for police personnel involved in shootouts or discharge of firearms through the assistance of HS and DOH;
  5. Ensure that all police operations include pre-deployment briefing and post-operation assessment/debriefing without prejudice to the observance of human rights;
  6. There is an indispensible need for the PNP to fast track the development of its own standard specifications for custodial facilities including floor size, floor-to-ceiling clearance, maximum capacity cell, and other details. This is necessary to establish a “best practice” in the humane treatment of persons under police custody and, more importantly, to progressively comply with international conventions on prevention of torture and protocols on protection of rights of person’s deprived of liberty;
  7. There is also a need to provide for the specific infrastructure needs of females, LGBTs, and minors under police custody;
  8. Coordinate with the DOJ for the speedy disposition of cases and/or faster release of Commitment Orders including safe transfer of persons under custody to BJMP; and
  9. Designate a liaison officer who shall be responsible for coordinating with the Office of the Prosecutor and the Court for the speedy release of commitment order. The goal is to decongest police custodial facilities and uphold the right of persons under custody to a speedy but fair trial and access to other legal remedies.

Meanwhile, the 2nd and 3rd Legs of the series of IHL Trainings are tentatively scheduled on August 15 to 18, 2016 in Davao City and in November 2016 in Ormoc City, respectively.

IHL regulates the means and methods of warfare and protects those not or no longer participating in hostilities, including civilians.

The ICRC, a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, promotes the teaching of IHL to increase awareness and foster compliance among weapon bearers. It has been working with the PNP HRAO since 2008 to integrate IHL and human rights law in the education of PNP personnel, and has trained around 300 police officers on these subjects.