MANILA - Defying the call of rights monitors, police will not suspend intensified operations against "tambays" or those loitering in the streets late into the night despite allegations of abuse, the Metro Manila police chief said Thursday.
Genesis Argoncillo, 22, was allegedly beaten to death in detention after he was arrested in the anti-loitering crackdown, his family claimed. Two call center agents, meanwhile, were arrested in Makati as they made their way home after work.
Initial investigation found that Argoncillo succumbed to the effects of congestion inside a Quezon City jail cell, Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar told radio DZMM.
The detention of the call center agents, which stemmed from "misunderstanding" is the only case of possible abuse in the campaign.
The station commander and desk officer responsible for the arrest have been relieved from their posts, he added.
"Itutuloy po namin [ang anti-loitering campaign]. As long as ginagawa po namin nang naaayon sa aming mandato, sumusunod kami sa rule of law and we protect human rights, hindi po namin ititigil dahil iyun po ay tantamount sa pag-abandon sa aming trabaho," said Eleazar.
(We will continue the campaign. As long as we are fulfilling our mandate, we are following the rule of law and protecting human rights, we will not stop because that is tantamount to abandoning our job.)
Police nonetheless will investigate allegations that arresting officers forced Argoncillo to hold empty beer bottles at a sari-sari store and took photos of him for evidence, the official said.
Investigators, he said, were also awaiting the results of an autopsy on Argoncillo.
National police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, meanwhile, has directed higher-ups to supervise all anti-loitering efforts to dispel allegations of abuse, added Eleazar.
For its part, the Quezon City police said Argoncillo died at the hospital after he complained of shortness of breath in their congested detention facility. Argoncillo had no external injuries, the police unit said, citing the doctor that attended to him.
CRACKDOWN NETS 8,000 IN ONE WEEK
President Rodrigo Duterte on June 13 ordered law enforcers to be strict against loiterers, whom he dubbed as "potential trouble for the public."
From then until dawn on Thursday, policemen have arrested 8,015 people for violating local laws on loitering, said Eleazar.
Twenty-five percent of those apprehended were minors violating the curfew, 23 percent were caught drinking in public places, 21 percent violated the smoking ban, 20 percent were half-naked in public while the rest committed minor offenses, he said.
The Southern Police District made majority of the arrests at 36 percent. The Eastern Police District accounted for 29 percent of the arrests, the Northern Police District for 13 percent and the Quezon City police for 10 percent, added Eleazar.
Duterte, however, claimed Wednesday that no arrests were being made based on his directive.
The Commission on Human Rights has urged police to suspend its anti-loitering drive, saying it may be violating the public's right to freedom of movement. The body also said it will investigate Argoncillo's death.