By Arjay L. Balinbin
OPPOSITION Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV has filed a resolution seeking an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the alleged arrest of loiterers by the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) following the order of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Senate Resolution No. 775, which was filed on June 28, directs the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs to probe police operations against “tambays” or loiterers.
The resolution aims to “review existing laws and local ordinances to ensure that no human rights violations were committed and that the PNP is acting within its mandate and the bonds of law.”
In his resolution, Mr. Trillanes stated that the drive against loiterers “poses a grave threat to basic human rights of Filipinos and violates due process of law.”
He added: “It also runs counter to the goal of the policy to make streets safer as it only promotes a culture of fear and injustice, especially among the poor.”
For his part, Senator Richard J. Gordon said in a press release on Friday that there is a need “to arm village officials in areas with high crime rates, rebellion or insurrection to help them protect themselves and their community.”
However, “the government should not give arms to those in the drug list or those who have criminal records,” he also said.
Last Thursday, Malacañang said it is ready to defend Mr. Duterte’s anti-loitering drive. “So we welcome the Congressional investigations, and we welcome also challenges before the Supreme Court. The President has said so,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing at the Palace.
Mr. Roque also said Mr. Duterte’s administration does not intend to criminalize vagrancy. “We are not criminalizing vagrancy po. We are implementing the laws and ordinances and it is a form of higher police visibility intended to act as deterrent towards the commission of crimes,” he said.
Asked if the campaign is not in violation of Republic Act No. 10158, a law decriminalizing vagrancy, Mr. Roque replied: “Hindi po, hindi po (No, no). (The) decriminalization… is (only) a particular crime of vagrancy under the Revised Penal Code, and that’s without prejudice to other existing ordinances.”