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Duterte: I did not order ‘tambay’ arrests

Rodrigo Duterte - 22 June 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Summit 2018 at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang, Davao City on Friday, June 22, 2018. (Photo from an RTVM video)

Published:  10:16 p.m., June 22, 2018 | Updated: 11:54 p.m., June 22, 2018

Amid widespread criticism that police operations against loiterers or loafers were another antipoor campaign similar to the bloody war on drugs that had killed thousands, an angry President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he never ordered the police to arrest “tambay.”

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Speaking in Davao City on Friday night, the President, a longtime government prosecutor, said he was aware that loitering was not a criminal offense.

“Those sons of bitches were not listening,” he said, referring to his critics. “I never said, ‘arrested.’ But if you are drinking in the alley, in the squatters area and making a living room out of the road there, you’ll really get nabbed.”

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‘Deranged constitutionalists’

“So that these deranged constitutionalists would know that loitering is not a crime – of course it is not,” the President said.

In his remarks at the oath-taking ceremony of newly promoted police, coast guard and jail officers on June 13 in Malacañang, the President said: “My directive is, if you’re just standing by (in the streets), tell them, ‘Go home. If you don’t go home, I’ll bring you to the office in Pasig.’”

He added: “I’ll take care of it. Tie their hands together and I’ll throw them in (the river).”

Nearly 7,300 people have been rounded up in the anti-tambay sweep by the police in just a week since June 13, according to Sen. Richard Gordon, Senate justice and human rights committee chair, who opposes the drive.

The President’s directive was met with criticism from human rights groups, who warned that his order might be used as an excuse to make arbitrary arrests and detention.

Malacañang later defended the order, stressing that it was meant to enforce city and municipal ordinances, such as those against drinking and gambling in the streets and walking around shirtless.

Earlier on Friday, Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde, who was also in Davao City, said the police would continue its anti-tambay operations despite the protests against the roundup of loiterers or loafers in mostly urban poor neighborhoods.

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“Of course not,” Albayalde told reporters who asked whether the controversial drive would be halted following complaints of abuses and at least one death.

“We have not violated any law,” Albayalde said.

Derived from “stand by,” the term “istambay,” or tambay, has over the years referred to bums who hang around street corners.

Albayalde said those arrested had violated local ordinances, such as smoking in public, being half-naked and karaoke singing past 10 p.m.

“Maybe it became controversial because no less than the President has said it—that loiterers should be arrested,” the PNP chief said.

Jobs, not arrests

He said the death of 22-year-old Quezon City resident Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, who was picked up by the police near his home, was under investigation. Two jail inmates are facing murder charges in connection with Argoncillo’s death.

Gordon, an administration ally, said the government should create jobs for loafers instead of arresting them.

“If they have jobs, they won’t have the time to loiter in the streets. So we should create more jobs so they have somewhere to go,” he said in a statement.

Opposition lawmakers deplored the new anticriminality campaign that resembles the bloody antidrug drive, “Oplan Tokhang,” which had targeted mostly the poor. Police have killed more than 4,200 people in the war on drugs since 2016.

“Oplan Tokhang before, anti-tambay now, but they are both antipoor policies that are being used to further violate the rights of those who are already oppressed and exploited,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in reaction to Argoncillo’s death.

‘Deplorable outcome’

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Argoncillo’s death was “a deplorable outcome arising directly as a result of the hastily launched, knee-jerk campaign against loitering.”

“The senseless death would not have happened in the first place if Argoncillo was not arrested in the controversial government campaign,” he said in a text message to reporters.

The anti-tambay drive is spreading to the Visayas and Mindanao, police said.

Lawyer Arvin Odron, director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Central Visayas, said the regional CHR office has asked police officials to suspend the anti-tambay campaign because there were no clear guidelines.

“The CHR wants to know what constitutes tambay because giving the law enforcement the discretion to interpret it without defining it on the guidelines is very dangerous and prone to abuse,” he said. —With reports from Joselle Badilla, Allan Nawal, Dj Yap, Jerome Aning and Ador Vincent S. Mayol

/atm /pdi

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TAGS: anti-loitering campaign, anti-tambay campaign, anti-vagrancy campaign, Rodrigo Duterte
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