Body cameras for airport immigration officers?
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Sunday said it is expecting the arrival of the proposed body cameras to some of its airport personnel by the end of the year.
While the move was a welcome development, some Filipinos aired suggestions to make the equipment tamper-proof to ensure that it would be maximized for the public’s benefit.
It was in October when the BI said it would procure such equipment to better monitor the activities and assess the performance of its personnel assigned to the country’s international airports.
BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco previously said it would also be easier for them to “investigate complaints of misconduct with the use of body cams.”
“It would also remind our officers to always be professional in the conduct of their duties,” he added.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval also said it was to promote transparency in the agency and address complaints against their personnel.
“This is to ensure accountability sa ating mga tauhan, particularly sa mga paliparan. Similar sa ibang bansa, sa mga law enforcers nila, they have body cameras that can record kung ano ang nangyayari entirety ng duty nila,” she said before.
Sandoval said that the body cameras would have livestreaming options which would allow the Office of the Commissioner to monitor personnel.
She added that the equipment is meant to deter potential abuse during secondary inspection and to personnel from supposedly frivolous complaints.
“Kung may investigation, mayroong nais malinawan, agad-agad makikita kung ano yung nangyari,” Sandoval said in a radio interview on October 22.
“We have initiated the procurement process, so we’re expecting it to be here by the end of the year,” she added.
Previous reports said the body cameras were worth P16 million.
While the move was an improvement in the bureau’s operations, some Filipinos hoped it would really work for the benefit of travelers.
“Good! Should be all airport personnel, including those tasked to handle luggage transfers. Anyone who turns their body cam off should be suspended,” a user on the X (formerly Twitter) platform wrote.
“Not only the Immigration Officers @BIHelplinePH, but also the people checking the baggage and the people transferring the baggage [or] luggage of passengers from the plane to the airport. @TheMIAA SHOULD have bodycams as well,” another user suggested.
“Sana mandatory sa lahat, tapos may CCTV din sa rooms. We should be able to tell if it’s on [or] off and we should be able to request the recordings and it should be given to us within 48 hours,” wrote a different user.
There were others who thought that CCTVs would be more helpful, claiming they cannot be tampered with easily compared to body cameras.
“Pulis nga pinapatay ‘yung body cam, IO [immigration officer] pa kaya?? Maglagay kayo ng CCTV na may [mike] na hindi nila pwedeng i-access!!” an online user commented.
“More CCTVs instead. Make the whole setup by an independent company so that no tampering can be done. [Six] cameras from different angles on the booths, on the body screen, on the bag check,” wrote a different user.
“Bakit body cameras? A camera that monitors the booth would suffice. How ridiculous is that? Wala naman silang hahabulin,” another Pinoy commented.
“Sasabihin nman nila sira o ‘di na-on. Place [CCTV] in their stations na di nila ma-access. Their interactions should be recorded and managed by an independent entity,” wrote another user.
Earlier this year, the BI drew flak for its screening process of exiting passengers on international flights.
Last March, a passenger was offloaded after undergoing a lengthy interview with an immigration officer who also asked for her graduation photo.
In July, another passenger was offloaded after failing to present documents asked by the IO. This included at least ten birth certificates of her family members.
There have also been reports of airport security officers stealing cash and other assets from their passengers this year.
The BI on April released a video that showed steps or questions that an immigration officer asks passengers at the primary inspection counter.