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Can Police Be Trusted with Social Media Monitoring? Rights Lawyer Asks

No parties for the people means no parties for the police, too.
by Clara Rosales
Sep 7, 2020
Photo/s: JEROME ASCANO
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The Philippine National Police needs to build public trust and establish clear guidelines on social media monitoring for quarantine violations before it can proceed with the initiative, a human rights lawyer said on Monday.

The campaign again quarantine violators could easily turn into surveillance and raise privacy issues, said Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director and lawyer Ray Paolo Santiago.

On Saturday, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield ordered police commanders to monitor social media for posts showing mass gatherings, such as parties and drinking sessions, which are still banned under general community quarantine.

"These can be used as pieces of evidence of maybe a probable violation but in line with the due process of law, it is not automatic that these people will be fined or already be charged. There must be proper validation about the context and whether those pictures were recent or not," he said.

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Another cause for concern is a lack of public trust, he said. The PNP must first rebuild public trust by showing that it does not favor anyone, especially since one of its officials, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, was earlier accused of violating the quarantine.

“If you look at the trust and the recent record of the Philippine National Police in implementing some of the restrictive laws, it has, in a way, gone overboard. It has conducted numerous arrests based on their perception of the situations,” he said.

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“Unless these kinds of situations are properly addressed by the Philippine National Police, the common person would of course be wary of how this is going to be implemented against us who are actually without any power within the Philippine National Police,” he said.