Eleazar calls for amendment of decades-old mendicancy law
MANILA, Philippines — It’s high time to amend the law on mendicancy, if National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Director Guillermo Eleazar is to be believed.
“Siguro lahat na lang nagpapalimos kasi 20 cents, 30 cents lang yata ‘yong penalty,” Eleazar told Radyo Inquirer in an interview on Wednesday. “Ito po ay panahon pa ni President (Ferdinand) Marcos ‘to kaya itong anti-mendicancy law siguro dapat mabago.”
The statement from Metro Manila’s top cop came after police from different NCRPO districts rescued at least 1,042 members of indigenous groups off the streets in 131 operations since last December 11.
According to Eleazar, a law that systemizes the approach on mendicancy is necessary as kind-hearted people would tend to offer help because government agencies supposedly fail to address the mendicants’ needs.
“‘Pag nasa batas kasi doon po ‘yong mas malakas na intervention ng mga ibang ahensya like the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development),” Eleazar said.
“Pero in the absence of that (law), eh sasabihin ng mga tao sa atin, ‘buti sana kung ina-address ng mga concerned agencies’, kaya on their own little way, ‘yong mga may malalambot na puso ay talagang magpapalimos,” he explained.
According to Section 5 (Criminal Liability) of the Mendicancy Law — which was enacted way back in 1978 — people who would be caught “giving alms directly to mendicants, exploited infants and minors on public roads, sidewalks, parks and bridges shall be punished by a fine not exceeding P20.00”.
On the other hand, Section 5 also says that people proven to have asked for alms can “be punished by a fine not exceeding P500.00 or by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years or both at the discretion of the court”.
Every Christmas season, it has been the habit of some people, especially those coming from the provinces, to ask for alms from pedestrians and passengers stuck in traffic.
Eleazar said that as long as indigenous people (IPs) know that people would give alms, then they would continue to flock the metropolis during the holidays.
“I believe that it needs intervention na rin po from the national government agencies kasi tungkulin natin, lalo na sa DSWD… sa DSWD they can only hold them in custody for some time. Pero kung pumayag sila na umuwi sa kanilang probinsya, better,” he noted.
“Kung hindi naman, eh babalik at babalik pa rin sa lansangan. Kaya nga sinasabi natin, pakikipagtulungan ng lahat […] Kung alam ng mga ‘yan na merong magpapalimos sa kanila, bababa at bababa dito ‘yan. Kahit labag sa ating kultura na magpalimos, eh tumigil na po tayo dahil hindi natin tinutulungan ‘yang mga ‘yan,” he added.
As of Wednesday morning, 202 of the 1,042 IPs rescued have been identified as Aetas, while 206 came from the Badjao ethnic group, and 634 from other tribes.
Most of the rescued IPs are minors, with 628 — comprising around 60 percent of the whole number. There were 414 adults rescued. They were either turned over to DSWD or barangay officials, or brought back to their families.
Majority of the IPs were found in the jurisdiction of the Manila Police District (373), followed by the Quezon City Police District (352), Southern Police District (213), Eastern Police District (70), and the Northern Police District (34). /je
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