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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — Vice President Leni Robredo tagged the recent campaign against violators of city ordinances and the decriminalization of vagrancy as "anti-poor," adding proper action should be taken to avoid events similar to the anti-drug war.

"Ngayon binibigyang lisensya ang pulis na basta na lang mag-pick-up nang mag-pick-up ng mga tambay. Masyadong anti-poor ito," she said in her weekly radio show. "Ayaw na nating maulit uli iyong lahat na mga karahasan na nangyari noong kasagsagan nga ng anti-drug war."

[Translation: Now they are giving policemen the license to pick up loiterers. This is too anti-poor. We don't want to repeat the abuses that occurred during the anti-drug war.]

She added that the campaign gives leeway for police officers to abuse their power by indiscriminately arresting citizens.

"Para kasing binibigyan ng lisensya iyong mga law enforcement na opisyal na mang-abuso. Nakita na natin itong danger nito noong kasagsagan ng anti-drug war. Inuulit na naman natin ngayon," she said.

[Translation: It's like we are giving law enforcement officials the license to abuse people. We saw this in the anti-drug war. We are repeating it again.]

Her statement comes after President Rodrigo Duterte denied ordering the arrest of "tambays" on Saturday.

READ: Duterte: I never said arrest 'tambays'

President Duterte clarified that he did not order for the arrest of any loitering individual,  provided that they are not drinking in the streets.

"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]," he said.

Robredo urged leaders and lawmakers to guide the public from possible victimization, following reports of mishandled arrests of violators of city ordinances.

"Nananawagan tayo na alamin kung ano iyong mga dapat gawin kapag mayroong danger na magiging biktima tayo---hindi lang iyong mga ordinaryong mamamayan, pero lalong lalo na iyong mga community leaders. Paano sila makakatulong? Iyong mga abogado, pinapakiusapan natin na maggrupo na, para magtulong-tulong sa pagsugpo nito," she said Sunday.

[Translation:We are calling for awareness of what we need to do to avoid becoming victims---not only the ordinary citizens, but, especially the community leaders. How can they help? We are asking the lawyers to come together to help suppress this.]

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde, meanwhile, belied critics saying those arrested were caught drinking and smoking in prohibited places, half-naked in public, and some are minors violating curfew hours or those involved in gangs.

"Let us make this clear walang violation ng tambay na city ordinance. Walang word na 'tambay' din. The word 'tambay' is generally used by all Filipinos 'pag ikaw ay nasa kalsada or madalas kang nasa kalsada," Albayalde said.

[Translation: Let us make this clear that the city ordinance has no violation for 'tambays.' There's also no such word. The word 'tambay' is generally used by all Filipinos when you are frequently on the streets.]

Albayalde said they have been imposing such operations even before the Duterte's recent pronouncements.

He acknowledged, however, village officials should be on top of the city ordinance implementation and not the police.

"Talagang nasa support ang PNP, but that does not prohibit us or prevent us from implementing the city ordinances also. Maganda yung talagang mga barangay officials ang nagle-lead dyan. Minsan talaga hindi lang nali-lead ng barangay officials natin," Albayalde said.

[Translation: The PNP is really just for support, but that does not prohibit us or prevent us from implementing the city ordinances also. It's great that barangay officials lead that. Sometimes, they just don't have initiative.

On reported cases of abuse of authority among the police, Albayalde vows to investigate the cases and punish those proven guilty.

The Metro Manila police reported 9,600 violators have been arrested from June 13 to June 24.

READ: QC Police chief expects more suspects to be charged in Genesis Argoncillo's death

One of the arrested individuals was Genesis "Tisoy" Argoncillo, who died while in police custody.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Makoi Popioco contributed to this report.