MANILA – Hundreds of police in the Philippines will start wearing body cameras during operations, it police chief said on Friday, heeding demands from human rights groups for accountability after thousands of killings and allegations of cover-ups.
The announcement came after public outrage over the fatal shooting on Monday of a woman by an off-duty policeman, which led to condemnation from activists who say police brutality has become systematic under President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs.
The shooting of Lilibeth Valdez, 52, was recorded on a mobile phone and shared on social media.
Policeman Hensie Zinampan was seen in the video pulling Valdez’s hair before he shot her in the neck. Administrative and criminal charges have been filed against him.
The Commission on Human Rights said it was investigating the killing.
Valdez was laid to rest at a ceremony on Friday.
Philippine police have been accused of executing suspects then staging crime scenes and fabricating reports, emboldened by what activists say is a culture of impunity under Duterte. Police and government reject that.
Police chief Guillermo Eleazar said to combat police abuses and erase doubts about the legitimacy of operations, more than 600 officers would be using body-worn cameras on Friday.
In a statement Eleazar also said the cameras were a tribute “to the policemen whose ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty were tainted by claims of extra-judicial killings, planting of evidence and other unfair allegations.”
Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the killing of Valdez underscored the need for police body cameras.
“The case shows that police accountability may only be possible if the crime is caught on camera,” said Conde.
“While cameras alone won’t stop police abuses, they bring a measure of transparency during police operations.”