FIXED police checkpoints have effectively thwarted the presence of armed criminals but some admittedly are being used by “kotong cops” to victimize innocent civilians and businessmen prompting President Duterte to order their immediate dismantling, a move which will be followed to the letter by the Philippine National Police on orders of Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa.
Gen. de la Rosa himself said that dismantling fixed police checkpoints will not be a handicap or a setback to the organization which currently pushing a massive campaign against illegal drug trafficking and abuse.
“Such policy can’t be our handicap. Magiging handicap iyan sa mga law enforcers na pangongotong lang ang nasa isip,” the PNP chief said after instructing all 18 police regional offices to immediately dismantle fixed police checkpoints, many of them already irrelevant since criminals who know their locations could easily evade them.
Last Saturday, President Duterte ordered the dismantling of all fixed police and military checkpoints in Mindanao saying they are causing travel delays. “Except really if it is necessary, only if it’s necessary, only if there is specific reason to do it, I am ordering all checkpoints dismantled,” he said.
According to the President, he will only allow the setting up of checkpoints if there is a reliable information that a “high-value” crime target will pass by a certain area.
Last Friday, police set up a checkpoint in Barangay Balatukan in Makilala, North Cotabato after receiving information that a Maguindanao mayor on President Duterte’s “narco-list” and his companions will be passing by in the area carrying drugs.
Officers from the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group and the Regional Public Safety Battalion 12 eventually encountered the suspects killing 10 led by Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Otto Dimaukom. Seized from the slain suspects were 13 big plastic sachets containing shabu and a cache of high-powered firearms and ammunition.
President Duterte maintained that checkpoints are unnecessary if there is no particular purpose for setting it up. “Kung walang purpose ‘wag ka na lang mag-checkpoint, pampagulo lang ng buhay ng Pilipino ‘yan,” he said while adding that anyway, police and the military can establish checkpoints anytime they are needed.
Already, police operational procedures are in place to ensure that human rights will be protected at all times particularly at checkpoints. The measures are designed to prevent possible violations of the Police Operational Procedures that may place the force in a bad light as did a number of shooting incidents in the past years involving policemen manning checkpoints.
The POP says that the following shall be observed in case checkpoints are ignored:
First, in the event that checkpoints/roadblocks are ignored and the motorists/suspects bumped the roadblock in an attempt to elude arrest or avoid inspection, the Team Leaders shall immediately contact adjacent units to inform them of the situation so that these units can conduct dragnet operation, while the members of the blocking/pursuing team shall block or pursue the errant fleeing motorists.
Second, the POP clearly says that warning shots shall not be allowed due to the confusion it may create to the driver and passengers of the vehicle. Megaphones or police sirens shall be used instead during the pursuit. The plate number of the vehicle shall be noted and given to other units in adjacent areas to prevent the possibility that the vehicle may elude the pursuit operation and;
Third, in the event that the occupants of the vehicle open fire on the personnel manning the checkpoint, reasonable force to overcome the suspect’s aggression may be employed.
In case of fleeing vehicles despite the warning given, the Team Leader must inform his headquarters or adjacent units so that roadblocks or hasty checkpoints can be set up.
The POP says that when the vehicle of the suspect is cornered or stopped, police must instruct the driver and other occupants in a clear and commanding voice to follow specifically what is required of them. Failure on their part to follow will be construed as a hostile act on their part.
The Team leader must instruct the driver to turn off the ignition and toss the key to the ground, open the door and step out of the vehicle, followed by his hands to be placed on top of the vehicle, or to move towards the officer with his hands up.
Other occupants, if any must be instructed to come out one by one and follow what the driver has been instructed to do earlier.
After that, the suspects should be arrested, handcuffed and searched before they are brought to headquarters for proper disposition.
Rule 9 of the POP state that ‘a moving vehicle shall not be fired upon except when its occupants pose imminent danger of causing death or injury to the police officer.