MANILA, Philippines — The tiff between celebrity couple Claudine Barretto and Raymart Santiago and broadcast journalist Ramon Tulfo has winded down to a he-said-she-said exchange, but one crucial evidence could have silenced the two camps’ claims: the CCTV footage of the incident.
Unfortunately — and in an age when Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras are staples of places needing security, such as airports — the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) couldn’t present any, citing the defective cameras in the area where the encounter happened.
“There are some portions of Terminal 3 where cameras are degraded, and one of those parts is the baggage carousel area,” said MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado in a phone interview with InterAksyon.com.
Honrado said this is because many portions of the terminal were casualties of neglect, which resulted from the long delay in opening the terminal due to legal complications with the contractor.
“Originally, they (CCTV cameras) were put in place in 2001. If you could remember, the terminal was opened only in 2008, so now only 30 percent of Terminal 3′s systems are efficient,” Honrado said.
The MIAA official said there is a camera installed in the baggage carousel area — where the now infamous brawl took place — but that it was part of those units that are not working already.
He said they are on track to replace the system that controls the CCTV cameras in the next few months, as part of the major rehabilitation of the terminal’s systems in line with the government’s goal of making the already decade-old international airport fully operational by 2013.
“The system controlling the CCTV cameras is just one of the systems that would be upgraded. But the problem now is you can’t just replace one camera or a part of the system — you need to upgrade the whole thing,” Honrado said.
Mandating surrender of CCTV footage
Because the MIAA could not provide a CCTV footage of Sunday’s incident, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo chided Honrado, saying the lapse is a sign of “incompetent management” on the part of airport authorities.
Castelo is the main proponent of a pending bill in Congress that makes the submission of CCTV footages to the police in instances of criminal activity mandatory on the part of the camera owners, which could include government agencies, financial institutions, and business establishments.
The lawmaker admonished airport officials for the lapse, saying CCTVs are part of the security measures that could quell the threat of terrorism and other criminal activities in such high-risk areas as airports.
“This is unusual because the baggage conveyor area is sensitive to theft. Any person could just filch any baggage from anyone,” Castelo added.
Aside from the bill he filed, Castelo is reportedly planning to legislate the compulsory installation of CCTV cameras in crime-prone public areas, such as the various transportation terminals around the country.
Philippine National Police Spokesperson Sr. Supt. Generoso Cerbo said Castelo’s proposed measures would greatly help the police in the investigation of various criminal activities.
CCTVs crucial in police investigation
Cerbo said the PNP welcomes the proposal of Castelo, since these crucial footages actually help in making their jobs of investigating crimes easier.
“It’s good for the police force, because it’s our job to investigate, and we need all the help we can get in guiding us to the ultimate solution of a crime,” Cerbo said in Filipino in a phone interview with InterAksyon.com.
The PNP official said these footage help in identifying the culprits of a crime and in piecing together the factors that ultimately led to the commission of a crime.
CCTV videos, in fact, have been crucial in pursuing a recent case against four Makati cops who allegedly killed a fire volunteer businessman and his companion in April.
Upon seeing the incident caught on video, PNP Chief Nicanor Bartolome immediately ordered the relief of the four policemen involved in the case after establishing that the killing was actually a case of mistaken identity.
“It’s definitely a big help [in the investigation process],” Cerbo explained. “When we go to court, it can be used in addition to other pieces of evidence to build our case.”
Cerbo, however, emphasized that though CCTV footage play a major role in the investigation, a case can still be made against a suspected criminal even without the video evidence.
The police can get evidence from numerous other sources, he said, including testimonies from eyewitnesses and other pieces of evidence recovered in the crime scene.
He added that though some CCTV cameras record footage in low quality, these videos could still be used by authorities with the help of image-enhancing technologies.
“There is a technology we use, which could somehow enhance the image, like when we need to identify the plate number of a vehicle,” Cerbo said. “If we need to identify features, we have the technology and the trained expertise who are capable of enhancing the images to get these details.”
Eye on the city
Though all-seeing cameras placed in public places offer potent evidence in crime investigation, not all places of interest are covered by such technologies, mainly due to the decentralized deployment of the devices.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), for example, has deployed CCTV cameras across the major thoroughfares of the city to monitor for traffic congestion and vehicular accidents on the road.
These cameras are also crucial in the MMDA’s project in collaboration with InterAksyon.com — the Traffic Navigator — as they provide the images being used by MMDA personnel in determining how bad the traffic in a particular area is.
Just recently, the MMDA deployed its first-ever mobile metrobase in time for the deluge of motorists going outside Metro Manila during the Holy Week.
The mobile metrobase reportedly consists of a camera capable of viewing a place in full 360 degrees, and can be driven around the metro in times of vehicular accidents or calamities.
The agency is also reportedly looking into acquiring CCTV-mounted flying drones, which can be deployed anywhere in the city to monitor incidents in places where their other monitoring systems are difficult to deploy, such as during mass rallies or during processions in celebration of the Quiapo feast, when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos converge every year.
Aside from the MMDA, various local government units have deployed CCTV cameras in their areas. The University of the Philippines, meanwhile, is looking to beef up campus security with the use of CCTVs following the string of crimes reported in some of its campuses.
CCTVs have become important components of security measures implemented in various places that lawmakers — aside from Castelo — are thinking of making its installation mandatory in high-risk places, such as banks.
In 2011, for example, Tarlac Rep. Jeci Lapus filed a bill requiring the installation of CCTV cameras on banks and other places with automated teller machines (ATMs), which are prone to robbery and hold-up incidents.
The City of Pasay, on the other hand, has filed an ordinance that prohibits the issuance of business permits to banks in the city that do not have CCTV cameras installed within their premises.
But if PNP’s Cerbo had his way, he said it would be beneficial for all if government agencies would consult the PNP so that such cameras would be placed in crime-prone areas.
“If we are to be asked, we want us to be consulted in these decisions. If placed within crime-prone areas identified by the PNP, the cameras could be a good deterrent to crimes,” he added.
The case of the Tulfo-Raymart brawl on Sunday, however, only prove that the cameras do not prevent crimes from happening; and that the absence of the footage that would establish the events that transpired only sought to complicate the investigation of the crime.