Metro Manila police arrest almost 3,000 'tambays' for violating ordinances

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — The police has arrested thousands in Metro Manila over the past week over supposed violations of local laws in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to crack down on criminality.

Philippine National Police Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde on Monday said 2,981 bystanders have been arrested in Metro Manila from June 13 to June 18. He reiterated only those violating local laws – not those loitering in the streets – will be arrested.

"Ang sinasabing standby, it's a common word lang ang pagkasabi. Pero kung titingnan natin ang pinaghuhuli nila, they have specific cases, they have specific violations and not the word 'standby' ang kanilang kaso," he said in a media briefing.

The offenses of those arrested included smoking in public, drinking alcohol in public, loitering half-naked, urinating in public, and minors violating a curfew ordinance.

Albayalde said no one will be arrested because of vagrancy as the law against it was decriminalized in 2012.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte only wants the police to uphold ordinances against bystanders who violate local laws.

"Ang concern lang talaga ng Presidente ay may ordinansa na dapat ipatupad, bagamat wala nang batas laban sa tambay, ay may umiiral pa rin na ordinansa. Sinasabi lang niya na patuparin natin ang ordinansa dahil importanteng bantayan ang tambay para maiwasan ang paggawa ng krimen. That's crime prevention through police visibility," he said in a separate media briefing on Monday.

Despite the thousands of arrests made, PNP said they have yet to finalize a policy that will consolidate all city ordinances to make sure it will be in accordance with local laws.

Fear of warrantless arrests

Over the weekend, a Facebook post went viral, after a man complained he and his friends were arrested in Makati City while they were waiting for their friend outside his house.

"Una, they will have to explain why they are in that area that time," Albayalde said.

The PNP Chief said the group was arrested because they were standing beside a group who was drinking in a public space. They were later released when they explained and were able to prove they were not committing any ordinance violation.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, aside from the legal basis, police can also arrest bystanders based on their knowledge on the background of the said person.

"Dapat meron namang legal na basehan, either dahil alam ng pulis na meron silang personal knowlegde na itong taong ito ay talagang tambay at meron na sigurong negative record. It's a case-to-case basis," he said.

He said those who were arrested but not charged can file a criminal case against the police for illegal detention and civil damages.

"Hindi tayo nauubusan ng legal remedies to deal with those who will act in excess of authority," Roque said.

Duterte on June 13 told the police to be strict against loitering on the streets because "they are potential trouble for the public."