Senator Bam Aquino, House lawmakers, seek probe of anti-tambay policy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 25) — A Senator and House lawmakers filed resolutions on Monday pushing for an investigation into what they call anti-poor arrests of thousands of loiterers or "tambays" following President Rodrigo Duterte's instruction to police to take bystanders off the streets because they are potential troublemakers.

Senator Bam Aquino filed Resolution 772 on Monday, which seeks to investigate the police's anti-tambay campaign "in view of protecting ordinary Filipinos from unjust, discriminatory, and abusive policies and practices."

The Makabayan Bloc of the House of Representatives also filed their own resolution on the same day appealing to conduct an investigation on the Philippine National Police's (PNP) "Oplan Tambay."

The resolutions come in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's speech on Saturday denying an order to arrest tambays after tirades surfaced against his supposed directive.

"I never said arrested, but if you are drinking diyan sa alley, 'yang mga squatters area, if you are there making a sala out of the road there, huhulihin talaga kita [I will arrest you]," the President said.

Related: Duterte: I never said arrest 'tambays'

Duterte first said loiterers — "tambay" in Filipino — were potential troublemakers during a speech to police on June 13.

"So my directive is 'pag mag-istambay-istambay diyan sa, sabihin niyo, 'Umuwi kayo. Kay 'pag hindi kayo umuwi ihatid ko kayo doon sa opisina ni ano — Pasig,'" said Duterte. "Ako ng bahala. Ilagay mo lang diyan. Talian mo 'yung kamay pati binti. Ihulog ko 'yan diyan sa ano."

[Translation: My directive is if there are bystanders there, tell them, 'Go home. If you don't, I'll take you to the office of -- (in) Pasig.' I'll take care of them. Just leave them there. Tie their hands and legs. I'll drop them there."]

In his resolution, Aquino cited Duterte's statements against loiterers and said there has not been an anti-vagrancy law since 2012.

Police officials have said their campaign was not against loiters but violators of local ordinances like drinking in the streets, or being shirtless in public.

Aquino said the probe should also scrutinize what local local ordinances the recent arrests were supposedly based on.

The Makabayan lawmakers also referred to Duterte's statements in their resolution saying he "vilified 'tambays' as potential criminals."

An 'anti-poor' campaign

The proponents echoed the sentiments of Vice President Leni Robredo, who previously condemned the arrests despite the decriminalization of vagrancy. She also said the crackdown could lead to "abuses" similar to the anti-drug war.

Related: VP Robredo on arrests of 'tambays': We don't want another drug war

Aquino dubbed the government's policy as "untenable, discriminatory and anti-poor." On the other hand, Makabayan said the campaign could open opportunities for policemen to freely arrest and search civilians without probable cause.

"It provides the PNP a wide latitude in carrying out illegal arrests, illegal search and seizures and in violating people's right to mobility," Makabayan's resolution stated.

Aquino further criticized recent incidents of mishandled arrests from the crackdown, saying the PNP's efforts specifically target the poor.

"Halos lahat ng mga naaresto ay mga mahirap at ang mga operasyon ay ginagawa sa mahihirap na komunidad. Tama na po ang pagpapahirap sa mga mahihirap," he said.

[Translation: Almost all of the arrested civilians were poor and the operations were conducted in poor communities. Stop burdening the poor.]

Aquino blamed the anti-tambay campaign for the death of Genesis Argoncillo, who police say was fatally mauled by his co-detainees in a congested police detention cell. 

"Hindi siya mamamatay kung hindi pinatupad ang isang polisiya na nakatarget ang mahihirap," Aquino said in a statement Monday.

[Translation: He would not have died if a policy that targets the poor had not been implemented.]

Argoncillo's family said he was arrested June 15 by policemen who found him in front of a store without a shirt on, in violation of a city ordinance. But police officials contradicted the family's account, saying the 25-year-old Argoncillo was arrested for alarm and scandal after being reported by concerned residents as drunk and causing trouble.

Quezon City Police Director Chief Supt. Joselito Esquivel said a thorough investigation has to be conducted into the contradicting reports surrounding the nature of Argoncillo's arrest and death.

The Metro Manila police reported Saturday that 9,600 violators have been arrested, following the President's speech on June 13.