Robredo slams 'tambay' arrests as anti-poor

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, June 24, slammed the arrests of "tambays" or loiterers as "anti-poor," as she considers these a repeat of abuses in the Duterte administration's anti-drug campaign. 

"Ngayon, binibigyang lisensya ang pulis na basta na lang mag-pick up ng mga tambay. Masyadong anti-poor ito… Parang hindi nari-realize kung bakit ang mga mahihirap parating nakatambay sa labas," Robredo said in her Sunday radio program.

(Now, the police are given the license to pick up loiterers. It's very anti-poor… It's as if they don't realize why the poor always loiter outside.)

She also said the directive gives the police the license to abuse.

"Para kasing binibigyan ng lisensya iyong mga law enforcement na opisyal na mang-abuso. Nakita na natin itong danger nito noong kasagsagan ng anti-drug war. Inuulit na naman natin ngayon," she said. 

(It's like giving law enforcement officials the license to abuse. We saw this danger during the peak of anti-drug war. We are repeating it again.)

The Vice President also said that Duterte's conflicing statements on the order to arrest tambays only brings "confusion."

"Hindi nakakatulong iyong paiba-ibang statement kasi lalong nagbibigay ng kalituhan. (Giving conflicting statements do not help as it only brings confusion)," she said.

Duterte's order

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that Philippine streets should be cleansed of tambays to "lessen crime and maintain peace and order."

While Duterte claimed he did not tell the police to "arrest loiterers," the Philippine National Police appeared to interpret the President's words as an order to detain them. 

After Duterte's pronouncements, police have arrested at least 2,981 people for supposedly loitering in the streets while allegedly violating city ordinances on curfews, public smoking, public nudity, and drinking on the streets. (READ: [OPINION] Tambayanan: A nation of bystanders)

Days after the order, 25-year-old Genesis Argoncillo, an alleged "tambay" who was killed in jail, had been arrested for supposedly causing "alarm and scandal." 

Know your rights – Robredo

Robredo called on the public to be aware of their rights, should they be faced with detention brought by the President's orders.

"Nananawagan tayo na alamin kung ano iyong mga dapat gawin kapag mayroong danger na magiging biktima tayo – hindi lang iyong mga ordinaryong mamamayan, pero lalong lalo na iyong mga community leaders. Paano sila makakatulong?" Robredo said.

(We call on the public to know what they should do if they become victims – not only the ordinary public but especially the community leaders. How can they help?)

"Iyong mga abogado, pinapakiusapan natin na maggrupo na, para magtulong-tulong sa pagsugpo nito (The lawyers, let's ask them to group together, in working how this can be stifled)," Robredo added.

No national law criminalizes loitering after the revision of the penal code during the previous administration. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said arrests of loiterers must have legal basis.

In its own statement, the opposition Liberal Party condemned Argoncillo's death and questioned the "tambay" arrests.

"We have seen the bloodshed and rights violations as a result of Oplan Tokhang. We are alarmed that we are seeing shades of the anti-illegal [drug] war in this revived campaign against 'tambays,' who are mostly poor," said LP vice president for external affairs Erin Tañada.

"We support statements and resolutions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives calling for an investigation into this drive," Tañada said.

"Finally, we question the motivation for this campaign. Is it to distract us from the real issues that the government has not addressed: of hunger and poverty, lack of jobs and rising prices, corruption in high places?" – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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