MANILA - Police have arrested some 5,500 people in the past 5 days of intensified operations against "tambays" or late night bystanders in the streets, Metro Manila police director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said Tuesday.
The arrests were made between June 13 and 18, following President Rodrigo Duterte order for law enforcers to be strict against loiterers, whom he branded as "potential trouble for the public", said Eleazar.
He said police efforts against loiterers are anchored on local ordinances setting a curfew for minors and banning drinking sprees in public places and going out half-naked.
The chief of the National Capital Region Police Office added police commanders are on the watch against any possible irregularity in anti-tambay operations, as in the case of 2 call center agents who were arrested in Makati as they were coming home from work.
"Iyun po ating iniimbestigahan. Lahat naman po ng pag-abuso sa ating mga guidelines ng kapulisan, hindi po natin tino-tolerate iyun. Hindi po natin hahayaang magkaroon ng violation ng human rights," Eleazar told radio DZMM.
(We are investigating that. We won't tolerate any police abuse of our guidelines. We will not allow any violation of human rights.)
Tom Villarin of Akbayan party-list has criticized the President’s order, saying this was reminiscent of the situation during the martial law period. Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, pointed out that vagrancy is no longer a crime.
Loitering was a criminal offense under Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code, which defined vagrants 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 CULTURE OF FEAR
The crackdown on tambays, however, may be violating citizens' right to freedom of movement and creating a culture of fear, said the Commission on Human Rights.
"You are just an ordinary, helpless individual walking down the street and somebody can just grab you... It's really masamang precedent iyan," CHR commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana told radio DZMM.
The CHR, she said, will investigate complaints against the anti-loitering drive. The body, in a letter, will also ask police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde to set guidelines on the crackdown and cite its legal basis.