MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque maintained that legal basis is necessary for the arrest of any person for loitering.
His remark comes after President Rodrigo Duterte repeated an order for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest "tambays" or loiterers.
"Oo, dapat mayroon naman kahit papaanong ligal na basehan, either dahil alam ng pulis, mayroon silang personal knowledge na itong taong ito ay tambay at mayroon na sigurong negative record," said Roque on Monday, June 18, during a press briefing.
(Yes, there should be legal basis, either because the police have personal knowledge that this person is a loiterer or the person has a negative record.)
Duterte's latest remarks sparked fear that police would start arresting people in the streets even without a warrant.
The PNP has arrested nearly 3,000 persons in Metro Manila who were allegedly loitering while violating city ordinances.
Roque again insisted that Duterte's recent reminder was merely an order to police to strictly implement ordinances by local government units prohibiting certain activities on the streets – like nudity or drinking by the road.
"He (Duterte) is just saying let's implement the ordinances because it's important to monitor loiterers to prevent the act of crime," Roque said in Filipino.
The presidential directive, said the spokesman, is mainly to boost "police visibility" and make potential criminals aware that the government is watching.
Roque agreed there is no national law that bans loitering.
Senator Francis Pangilinan had responded to Duterte's order by reminding the police that vagrancy or loitering was decriminalized in 2012 when former president Benigno Aquino III signed amendments to the Revised Penal Code.
Duterte first mentioned his order against loiterers in September 2017.
"Tignan 'nyo may maglakad pa ba na – eh ngayon, sabi ko sa pulis, 'Pikapin mo.' (See if there's anyone walking around – now, I told the police, 'Pick them up.') I do not want anybody standing there, mag-tambay (loitering)," he had said.
He had admitted then that some loiterers are probably not about to commit a crime, but that it's better for the police to "pick them up" because people are "scared to walk the streets." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.