Goodbye ‘Criminal Istambays’ | Inquirer News
Sharp Edges

Goodbye ‘Criminal Istambays’

Oplan RODY (Rid the Streets of Drinkers and Youths) is in full swing with the arrest over the weekend of 400 persons in east Metro, 102 persons in Quezon City, 100 in Las Piñas and 60 others in Manila.

PNP chief Oscar Albayalde says Oplan RODY will be implemented nationwide, especially in the evening while NCRPO chief Guillermo Eleazar says Metro Manila will have “round-the-clock” police operations.

The PNP uses local laws prohibiting some acts in public places such as Quezon City Ordinance (CO) SP-85 which prohibits the drinking of alcohol, CO 2623 which bans nudity (particularly shirtless men), CO 26 which penalizes smoking and CO 2301 which imposes “discipline hours” or a curfew, among others.


Similar laws are also in effect in Navotas, Las Piñas, Manila, Marikina and San Juan although some of these have been declared unconstitutional.


For example, the Supreme Court, in its Aug. 8, 2017 decision in the case of Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan, et al. vs Quezon City, et al., docketed as G.R. No. 225442, declared unconstitutional the curfew ordinances of Navotas and Manila for being vague and suppressing minors’ rights to liberty and travel.

In 2012, Congress decriminalized the 1939 antipoor vagrancy laws, then often used by the police against loiterers, vagrants and “istambays.” It enacted Republic Act 10158 which said that these people could not be detained except for another crime.


Also, Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution guarantees every individual the right to personal liberty and security of homes against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In May 2016, or a month before President Duterte assumed office, the police started rounding up istambays in Metro Manila. But the campaign was placed on the back burner when then PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa concentrated on illegal drugs with Oplan Tokhang and Double Barrel.

Last week, President Duterte warned istambays they would be arrested. A “crime prevention measure,” clarified Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, triggering a heated debate on its effectivity, legality and methods of implementation.

Do we now consider istambays criminal suspects? Is it a crime to be poor and jobless? Will the rich istambays be arrested, too? What about the issue of personal liberty, particularly freedom of movement and travel? Is it now a crime for “magkakapitbahay” to hang out in groups? These are compelling questions today.

Oplan RODY reminds me of martial law when Marcos implemented “sona” in poor urban areas such as Balic-Balic, Sampaloc, where I come from.

Sona is a midnight to early morning raid conducted by Metrocom policemen on a compound or slum area. All men, young and old, were told to go to the plaza, basketball court or any open area for “verification” as the police looked for communists and criminals.

* * *

DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño has a workable plan of suppressing killings carried out by motorcycle riders in Metro Manila. His solution: Put up 1,700 barangay checkpoints to regularly check motorcycle riders (single or in tandem) and require them to submit ownership documents. The PNP does random checkpoints only on city/municipal roads and criminals elude them by taking barangay roads.

Diño believes these barangay checkpoints can help identify armed criminals and maybe capture them by blockading barangay roads until the cops arrive. This is feasible and must be implemented ASAP.

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TAGS: istambays, loiterers, Oplan Rody, Sharp Edges, tambays

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