Police arrest 100,000 for loitering in 2 months
More than 100,000 people in Metro Manila have been arrested or taken into custody by the Philippine National Police less than two months after President Duterte ordered a crackdown on street loiterers, a less deadly campaign than the war on drugs.
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said that between June 13 and 3 a.m. on Tuesday, its five police districts arrested 101,223 for violating city ordinances, which some human rights groups say has had a “chilling effect” on the metropolis.
After critics pointed out that the President’s original order to round up loiterers was illegal under Republic Act No. 10158, which has decriminalized vagrancy, police began to zealously arrest people caught for a litany of minor offenses.
Lower crime rate
Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar, NCRPO director, has said the crackdown on ordinance violators had lowered the overall crime rate, invoking the “broken window” theory that essentially states that minor offenses are a prelude to bigger crimes.
According to latest police data, 35,312 were apprehended for violating the smoking ban, or 34.89 percent of the total—the largest chunk of the arrests.
Minors caught past curfew time numbered 12,907 and the 12,739 half-naked men arrested accounted for about 13 percent, while 9,057, or 9 percent, were picked up for drinking in public.
Other offenses — jaywalking, littering and driving a motorcycle without a helmet — made up the remainder.
According to the NCRPO, most offenders were released from custody with a mere warning (65,029 cases of 64.24 percent) or were fined (25,631 cases or 25.32 percent). Only 10.44 percent of the arrests led to formal charges, more than half of them in Manila.
Unlike the President’s headline-grabbing drug war, widespread public outrage over the feverish roundup of ordinance violators — which peaked when a man who was arrested for being shirtless died under police custody — has largely diminished.
The President’s latest crusade has had wide-ranging effects.
Aside from the death of Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, the campaign has also led to the relief of at least 15 police officers for offenses related to the crackdown, ranging from extortion to wrongful arrests.
At least one local government, Quezon City, is revising penalties for those rounded up. Its council this week drafted an ordinance that would give first-time offenders an “ordinance violation receipt” rather than put them in custody.
The NCRPO data indicated that only nine of the alleged offenders who were arrested in the clampdown remained under police custody, all of them in Quezon City.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, told the Inquirer the campaign had other effects that would be harder to measure—such as a new climate of fear that has spilled into the streets.
“While the Duterte administration argues that the antitambay campaign may have an effect on [its] anticrime campaign, its adverse effects, including the chilling effect akin to the environment engendered during the Marcos martial law period, are far-reaching,” Palabay said.
Belying claims by the PNP that it only arrested those caught violating city ordinances, Palabay said that random persons were being brought in for questioning “and at times bullying” by officials.
“If there is one thing that the campaign had done, it is the creation of an even more dangerous climate of impunity in the cities,” she said.
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