Intensified closed-circuit TV (CCTV) public surveillance would go a longer way in suppressing crime than the restoration of the death penalty, according to a lawmaker.
“We would prefer any day a surveillance state over an executioner state,” House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said over the weekend.
Atienza opposes judicial killings on grounds that they violate the sanctity of human life and do not serve any purpose that is not already being served by life imprisonment.
A greater number of spy cameras in public places would be more effective in pinning down criminals, and in discouraging other would-be felons, according to the congressman, a former three-term mayor of Manila.
“Round-the-clock public video surveillance has become an extremely practical crime-fighting tool. It has helped law enforcement agencies everywhere apprehend all sorts of offenders, from car thieves to kidnappers,” he said.
The lawmaker added that 24-hour CCTV monitoring has become even more potent now because of growing use of social media, where the community and law enforcement agencies may easily share and exchange information that could solve a crime quickly.
“In fact, if we look at some of the most-shared social media posts by Filipinos, they are videos of all sorts of criminals caught red-handed,” he said.
“Video surveillance succeeds in achieving the certainty of swift capture and punishment, which is our best deterrent to crime,” Atienza added.
He cited many ordinary as well as high-profile crimes that were solved fast with the help of CCTV footage, including:
• The July 25, 2016 fatal shooting of cyclist Mark Vincent Garalde in Quiapo, Manila, in a case of “road rage” that was captured on CCTV. Inactive Philippine Army reservist Vhon Martin Tanto was promptly identified as the perpetrator and nabbed four days later in Masbate;
• The 2014 EDSA, Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) “hold-up” of two employees of a private contractor who were seized at gunpoint and then robbed of P2 million in cash by 12 active and inactive police officers in the guise of carrying out a drug bust. CCTV footage helped verify the license plates of the cars used in the bogus police operation, and led to the arrest of the outlaws, which included the La Loma, Quezon City station commander, Chief Insp. Joseph de Vera; and
• The 2012 kidnapping and murder of businesswoman Leah Angeles-Ng in Quezon City. The four suspects – active and inactive police officers – were nabbed after two of them were spotted on CCTV using Ng’s Toyota Prado soon after the victim went missing. The culprits, including Supt. Rommel Miranda, one-time spokesman for the Metro Manila police office, are now facing trial.
Atienza said stepped up CCTV shadowing would help compensate for lack of police visibility while the Philippine National Police (PNP) is still recruiting and training additional officers.
At present, the country has one police officer for every 690 persons – still a far cry from the PNP’s target to have one officer for every 500 persons.
“We do not see video surveillance upsetting law-abiding and peace-loving citizens, as long as it is restricted to public places, and provided it does not violate the right to privacy,” Atienza said.
Public video surveillance is most widespread in the United Kingdom, which has some 5.9 million CCTV cameras, or one for every 14 people, according to the British Security Industry Authority.