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Balay warns of human rights violations as Anti-Tambay Campaign intensifies

Photo grab from Philippine Star

Balay expressed dismay over  the arrest of thousands of  civilians following the order of President Duterte of a crackdown against “tambays” or nighttime idlers in  streets whom he considers as  “potential trouble for the public” last June 13. The intensified police operations have resulted to 7,290 arrests in Metro Manila and the suspected death due to torture of a detainee in a police lock up jail in Quezon City, a week after the chief executive issued the directive to police officers.

According to Balay Executive Director Josephine Lascano, staying or wandering in public spaces is not a criminal offense as vagrancy was already decriminalized through Republic Act 10158 way back in 2012. The police, she said,  must first have either an arrest warrant or a valid and legal reason before they can arrest or detain idlers or any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets.

Citing the arrest of six persons without a lawful basis in Makati City on June 16, Lascano warned the public to be vigilant and stand ready to defend their rights from arbitrary police actions. The law enforcers who apprehended them reportedly said that President Duterte’s  crackdown directive is as good as law.

Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said that those covered by the President’s order are individuals who have violated ordinances such as drinking, smoking, and hanging around half naked in public areas. Some legal experts said that ordinances are enacted by local government units and imposed fines as sanctions and not necessarily imprisonment, especially for first time offenders.

“Vilifying bystanders, many of whom are unemployed males in impoverished urban areas, as potential criminals  rather than as  products of a  corrupt and elitists system that breeds social marginalization only serves to discriminate the poor,” Lascano added.

She pointed that, “Many residents in poor communities live in squalor. They dwell on cramped and humid living spaces forcing many of them to do laundry,  bathe their children, socialize, cool themselves down, or simply pass their time idly by in public spaces.”

She warned that the crackdown against tambays may be exploited members of the police for extortion, or to abuse their authority leading to torture and ill treatment.

The Commission on Human Rights has listed police officers as the leading perpetrators of alleged human rights violations. Reports from the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office tend to show that human rights complaints involving police officers have risen in the first quarter of 2017. Law enforcers have also figured out in the sensational kidnapping and killing of a Korean businessman in Camp Crame and the looting of houses in Caloocan City during their anti-drug operation last year.  

References: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/884909/rights-violations-involving-police-officers-on-the-rise