MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said teenagers should not be spared from his crackdown order against “tambays” (loiterers), saying this was being done for their protection.
Invoking the principle of “parens patriae” (parent of the country), Duterte said it is the government’s duty to protect the youth, which is why he said law enforcement agents, barangay authorities, and government social workers must round up teenagers found loitering on the streets and “take care” of them.
“Below 18, you arrest the teenagers there around loitering, because we have to protect our children, nagkalat na ang droga, nagkalat na ang lahat (drugs and other illegal stuff are everywhere),” Duterte said in his speech during the oath-taking of newly elected Northern Mindanao barangay captains in Cagayan de Oro.
“You take them into custody not to arrest them, but for their own safety, to protect them…They are not being arrested for any crime, arrest them for their good… ‘Uwi kayong lahat.’ (Go home, all of you). We can take custody of minors to protect them.”
The President also made it clear that “minors are taken into custody but are not arrested… brought to a safe place for the night, for their protection,” fed and then released the morning after.
Duterte said he ordered the crackdown against loiterers to spare the country from “perdition”.
FRISK, NOT ARREST
The President has been heavily criticized for his order for police to round up loiterers, with critics saying it is a prelude to a nationwide martial law.
But Duterte said his order was only for the police to frisk tambays and not arrest them, as he acknowledged that it is not illegal to loiter on the streets.
“You continue to frisk people who are there, that is legal, [and] until such time, that is my order. Don’t believe in the criticisms. Don’t read it,” Duterte said, addressing the police.
Over 8,000 have since been apprehended or accosted in Metro Manila since Duterte issued his order more than a week ago, the Philippine National Police said.
Duterte has brushed aside criticisms to his crackdown order, even as concerns about human rights violation have been raised against it.
“There is the Constitution but there is our obligation to protect the people under the theory of ‘parens patriae’. That is not written but it is the bedrock,” he said.
“Unless the Supreme Court says I’m mistaken, eh di sige (fine). Hayaan mo lahat kung sino gustong lumabas (Leave anyone who wants to go out be) …Then give us a guidance on how to do it. Or better still, supervise us on how to do it,” he said.
Duterte also promised to protect the policemen who will be slapped with charges for carrying out his order against loiterers.
“I’m not saying I’m encouraging them [to do wrong]. For as long they are doing their duty, they enjoy my protection,” he said.