June 14, 2024

Friends in the police service who have tattoos like “Tatak Agila” or brotherhood of the “guardians” on their bodies have manifested their worries on the issuance from Camp Crame last March.
Philippine National Police Memorandum Circular 2024-023 now regulates the bearing and sporting of tattoos among its personnel, applicants, and even cadets in the PNP Academy.
It also requires all uniformed and non-uniformed personnel with existing tattoos to provide a written affidavit declaring their tattoos and have the visible ones or not covered by their uniform removed. Those who are trying to get into PNP as lateral entrants or those who intend to apply will not be accepted if they have tattoos.
Exempted from the ban are aesthetic tattoos such as those on eyebrows or lips.
The memo defines unauthorized tattoos as those that are extremist, ethnically or religiously discriminatory, offensive, indecent, racist, sexist, and associated with prohibited or unauthorized groups. The PNP is saying no to police recruits with tattoos as uniformed men with body markings “look like criminals or ex-convicts.”
Gone is the time when it was only gangsters or prisoners, in the movies or in the streets, who sported tattoos – Sputnik, Oxo, Bahala Na Gang, or our own version of “Darumudum” fraternity. The changing times have accepted tattoos, whether a dot or three in your arms, or a three-rose-everlasting expression of love in your chest.
The Supreme Court allows tattoos, though it admonished a judge for posting photos of himself half-dressed and exposing his tattoo art, but clarified that the impropriety relates solely to the judge’s “act of posting the subject picture on social media, and it has absolutely nothing to do with his choice to have tattoos on his body”.
In Japan, there is no law prohibiting a tattoo, although they are still strongly associated with organized crime group Yakuza or the mob, and some establishments (saunas, pools, gyms, etc.) refuse entry to persons who wear them.
Our unsolicited advice to PNP, take a second look at the memo as it might be threading on dangerous constitutional grounds for being “discriminatory.” Methinks there is no legal basis for the PNP tattoo ban, as tattoos should not be used as an indicator of someone’s good moral conduct, criminal behavior, or fitness to serve. Neither does it have to do with the job performance of any police or public servant, smacked of stereotyping and bias.
The PNP should not make tattoos a proxy or indirect indicator of “good moral conduct” or “of sound mind and body”.
Republic Act 6975, the law creating the PNP, and RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, do not prohibit tattoos. It is not in the qualifications and disqualifications stated in Section 30 of RA 6975.
Any first year Law student would know that in statutory construction, “What is not included is excluded.” This dictum applies especially so when there is a detailed enumeration of what is included and in the laws cited, tattoos or anything similar to tattoos are not included.
A tattoo is artistic form of expression of faith of love and association protected by the freedom of expression clause of the 1987 Constitution protects.
The ban on tattoos was “irrelevant as a disqualification” because they had nothing to do with the competence or skills needed to become a police officer.