MANILA - Malacañang on Monday assured that public’s rights will be respected after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a crackdown on “tambays” (loiterers), saying there must be a legal basis for any police arrest.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the public must not fear that they will be picked up by the police as long they as they follow local ordinances on loitering.
“Well, ang concern lang po talaga ng Presidente natin, may mga ordinansa na dapat ipatupad. Bagama’t wala na po ngayong batas laban sa tambay, eh may mga umiiral pa ring mga ordinansa,” Roque said in a press briefing.
(The President’s only concern was that there are ordinances to be enforced. While there is no longer any law against loitering, there are ordinances.)
“So in other words it’s really police visibility and trying to take steps to ensure that the public knows that the police are present and that if they are engaged in any conspiracy to commit crimes, nandiyan po ang ating kapulisan (the police will be there).”
Roque added that private citizens can sue the police if they believe their rights were violated by the police.
“May established na mga mekanismo para protektahan ang karapatan ng kalayaan. Kapag ang mamamayan ay naaresto at ‘di kinasuhan, pwede makasauhan ng illegal detention [ang pulis],” he said.
(There are established mechanisms to protect the freedom of Filipinos. If a citizen was arrested but not charged, he can sue the police for illegal detention.)
Duterte’s order was heavily criticized by opposition lawmakers, saying it was reminiscent of the martia law era.
LOITERING NOT A CRIME - PANGILINAN
Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan reminded the Philippine National Police that loitering is not a crime.
"Para po sa mga tagapagpatupad ng batas, hindi na po krimen ang tumambay, o mag-loiter (For our law enforcers, loitering is not a crime). Republic Act 10158 has decriminalized vagrancy, amending Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code," he said in a statement.
Loitering was a criminal offense under Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code, which defined vagrants were defined as "any person found loitering about public places or wandering about the streets without visible means of support."
Then president Benigno Aquino III in 2012 signed a law decriminalizing vagrancy amid concerns that the Revised Penal Code has been used to justify arbitrary arrests against the poor.
A week after Duterte issued his directive, the PNP said it arrested nearly 3,000 people in Metro Manila.