Protect minors on the streets by arresting them?
Or why an after-thought to the already confusing anti-tambay order is bound to make things worse
Jul 3, 2018
Adding to the furor sparked by Malacanang’s ambiguous order against loiterers or “tambay” is a new directive President Duterte issued last week, telling authorities to “protect” minors by taking them into custody if caught loitering at night.
The directive comes just days after the death of 22-year-old Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, allegedly rounded up for appearing half-naked while police officers conducted an anti-tambay campaign in his Quezon City neighborhood.
Mr. Duterte assured his audience in a Mindanao event that children 18 years old and below would “not be arrested for any crime.” Rather, “it’s for their own good that they are arrested,” he said.
The President even invoked the principle of parens patriae which considers the government as the protector of citizens unable to do so for themselves.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a press briefing later, said the minors will be brought either “to the barangay” or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) where their parents can fetch them.
Mr. Duterte’s critics—mainly opposition members and human rights advocates—already raised loud objections over his initial anti-tambay directive following Argoncillo’s mysterious death inside a crowded jail cell due to “multiple blunt force trauma.”
Not only is the order anti-poor, the critics said, pointing to the campaign’s focus on depressed communities, there are also no clear instructions to members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), about who qualifies as a tambay (half-nakedness?) and what charges should be filed against them. Congress had already decriminalized vagrancy in 2012.
Meanwhile, there are stories of men on their way to the sari-sari store, purportedly to buy pre-paid phone credits, who were nabbed for not wearing shirts.
One photo being circulated online shows a group of men wearing uniforms of a shipping company who were rounded-up while simply waiting for the start of their shift outside a building.
The outrage does not bother the chief executive though. In separate statements, both President and spokesperson insisted that until the Supreme Court rules otherwise, there is nothing illegal about rounding up loiterers. Apparently, this means no amount of noise from critics should deter the PNP from following Mr. Duterte’s directive.
“We call them istambay. That’s the word. That is my order. And you continue to frisk people who are there on the street and that is legal… Until such time, that is my order…That to me is legal until the Supreme Court says it is illegal. Until the Supreme Court says or court says that I cannot do it,” the President told the PNP.
He also urged police officers involved in the anti-tambay campaign to ignore the outcry over his order.
“Do not believe in the criticisms. Do not read it. It’s none of your business to be reading what they are talking about. It’s our business to follow what we are ordered to do,” he said.
As it is, Mr. Duterte’s new order revives memories of fallen teenagers like Kian delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and Reynaldo de Guzman.
In separate instances, their arresting officers insisted on their involvement in drug operations despite contradictory testimonies aired in legislative probes.
The non-profit Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center had already listed 56 male and 18 female minors who were casualties in the administration’s relentless anti-drug campaign from July 2016 to December 2017.
The new directive against child loiterers, until it is declared illegal by the high tribunal, is bound to increase these numbers.
While spokesperson Roque indicated that minors will not join adult suspects in jail cells, this is not an assurance that they would be treated better or more humanely in barangay halls or DSWD offices.
One only needs to check the police’s track record in handling young people linked to drugs.
It is also worrying that not only has the President stressed to the PNP to follow what he has ordered it to do, he has stressed the police has no business being sensitive to public opinion about his directive.
The picture could only get darker after this.
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