No letdown in crackdown vs. erring 'tambays' as cops arrest 8,000

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — The Metro Manila police continue to arrest more bystanders or "tambays" found violating city laws.

Metro Manila Police Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar on Thursday said over 8,000 have been arrested in violation of different city ordinances. The police arrested 2,981 bystanders from June 13 to June 18, but the number ballooned to 8,015 in a span of three days.

"Dati na itong ginagawa. Ngayon lang is minomonitor natin. We have to admit na nag-increase ang implementation dahil it is the directive of the President," he told CNN Philippines.

The police started its intensified crackdown against erring loiterers after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered them to be strict against those loitering in the streets because "they are potential trouble for the public."

Eleazar said the common ordinances violated are drinking liquor in public, smoking in public pursuant of an executive order, loitering on the streets half naked, illegal gambling, and urinating in public.

He said those who commit minor offenses are no longer detained in police station jail cells due to congestion.

Related: Death certificate of arrested 'tambay' shows he died of physical trauma

PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said some are just asked to do push-ups or community service.

Eleazar added the crackdown on violating loiterers has lessened the petty crimes in Metro Manila.

"We know for a fact that petty crimes encourage more crimes and eventually serious crimes kung hindi natin ma-address. The best policing method is to address it habang maliit pa," the Metro Manila police chief said.

According to the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey, 6.6 percent of families reporting victimization by any of the crimes within the past six months are down from December 2017's 7.6 percent.

"Indeed, significant strides have been made in our campaign against illegal drugs and crimes as families reported fewer break-ins and carnapping. Fear of burglary, fear of unsafe streets and presence of drug addicts in the neighborhood had likewise dropped as disclosed by respondents," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Eleazar reiterated the police cannot arrest bystanders because the law against vagrancy was decriminalized in 2012.

"Yun lang na may violation ang dapat arrestuhin o i-accost," he said.

File complaints vs erring police

Albayalde assured the public he will apply the full force of the law against erring cops or those disobeying operational procedures.

"We don't want these operations to be abused by our police personnel because this is the directive of the President," he said in a separate media briefing.

On Wednesday, two Makati cops were relieved for "mishandling" the arrest of bystanders. They arrested a call center agent and his friends while waiting for their friend outside his house.

The PNP Chief urged the public to file complaints against abusive policemen during their anti-criminality operations.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año insisted no human rights are violated in the move to arrest bystanders who are not following city ordinances. He said it's a good step to clean up the community and ensure safe and secure spaces for everyone.

"Hindi naman yan martial law. Malayong-malayo sa martial law. Even if you look at martial law in mindanao malayong-malayo. Ito lang para sa kaayusan ng community. Hindi naman yung kahit sino lang hinuhuli eh," he said.

He said, cops found to violate the procedure will be held accountable, adding he and Albayalde will personally initiate an investigation. 

"Hindi natin papayagan na magkaroon ng violation at abuse of authority. Kung meron kayong nakikita na naabuso ang karapatan niyo, we welcome the complaint pero ang gusto natin makipagcooperate na lang lahat para magkaroon tayo ng secured community," he said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also assured the government will not tolerate police excesses.

"Hayaan naman po natin ang liderato na magdisiplina ng kanilang hanay. Kung talagang napatunayan po na walang dahilan na mangyari ito, I am sure the proper charges will be filed against the policemen and that they will be fired from the service," Roque said in a media briefing.