Panelo defends controversial nabbing of shirtless man outside his house

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 25) — Police had every right to arrest a man who was shirtless outside his house, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Monday.

CNN Philippines' The Source showed Panelo CCTV footage that has circulated in social media of a 32-year-old with Ariel Morco, who was shirtless outside his house when a police officer came to collect him.

"Kung may ordinansa na bawal ka sa labas ng bahay mong nakahubad, talagang — e kalsada na iyan. Lumabas ka na ng bahay mo," said Panelo.

"Basta nasa labas ka ng kalsada, public na ang kalsada," he added.

[Translation: If there is an ordinance that you are not allowed naked outside the house, then — well, that's the road. You already left your house... As long as you're out on the road, the road is public space.]

The video showed Morco looking out at the road, a few steps from his doorway. Despite retreating inside his house, the officer reached for his arm and arrested him. Morco told CNN Philippines On The Record on Thursday that he was later brought to Quezon City Station 5 and made to clean the police restroom, but he was too afraid to file a complaint.

However, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Guillermo Eleazar, upon seeing the footage on On the Record, told CNN Philippines that the arrest was unnecessary.

Quezon City Ordinance 2623-2017 bans residents from roaming naked in public places. Fines range from P1,000 to P5,000 and community service of between three to five days. Violators can also face imprisonment of between six months to a year for third and subsequent offenses.

"If the ordinance says bawal, puwede kang arestuhin [you can be arrested]," said Panelo. "The law may be harsh, but it's the law. You have to comply."

Morco is only one case of about 9,600 arrests between June 13 to June 24 since President Rodrigo Duterte denounced loitering in a speech earlier this month. Vagrancy is not a crime under Philippine law, but police argue that they are following local ordinances.

Cases like Morco's, and the recent death of Genesis "Tisoy" Argoncillo while under police custody, are raising alarm on possible police abuse. Opposition senator Bam Aquino on Monday filed a resolution to investigate the government's policy on loitering.