MANILA, Philippines – Police wrongly detained a group of 6 friends waiting outside another friend’s home in Makati City, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a controversial crackdown on “tambays” (bystanders).
The group said police did not cite any law they could have violated, and only showed them a video of Duterte ordering cops to go after “tambays.” Matt Dimaranan, who was part of the group, remembered a policeman saying, “Basta sinabi ng Pangulo, batas ‘yun.” (As long as the President says it, it is the law.)
Vagrancy is not a crime in the Philippines, according to Republic Act 10158 signed by then president Benigno Aquino III in 2012.
Police later claimed, however, that they mistook the group of friends for criminals because there were drug suspects nearby.
In a Facebook post, Dimaranan recounted his group of friends standing idly by outside a friend’s home at around 11 pm on Saturday, June 16, when cops asked them to go to the police station.
“Pagdating sa Guadalupe Nuevo Station 7, ipinasok kaming 6 sa loob ng kulungan. Medyo anxious na kami the moment na binuksan nila ‘yung selda (After arriving at Station 7, all 6 of us were placed inside a jail cell. We were anxious when they opened the cell),” Dimaranan said, saying the cell was packed with people who appeared vagrant and drunk.
One of Dimaranan’s friends quizzed cops about why they were detained. It violates human rights, after all, to detain people without telling them the crime they supposedly committed. (READ: If you’re arrested or detained, know these rights)
Dimaranan said police, in turn, showed them a video of Duterte ordering cops to go after “tambays,” and to take them home.
“Ang tanong sa amin, ‘Hindi ba kayo nanonood ng TV?’ Ipinanood pa sa amin ‘yung declaration ni President Rodrigo Duterte about the Anti-Tambay Law,” he said. (They asked us, “Don’t you watch TV?” He showed us the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte about Anti-Tambay Law.)
After more than an hour in detention, one of Dimaranan’s friends started taking video. This supposedly led a policeman, a certain “Major Elagro,” to bring them out and let them stay in an office instead – but only after he asked for the video to be deleted.
The group of friends was eventually released “between 2 am and 3 am.”
“Until now hindi ko alam kung anong mali sa paghihintay sa labas ng bahay (Until now, I don’t know what is wrong with waiting outside a house),” Dimaranan said at the end of his Facebook post.
Sought for comment, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde on Monday, June 18, downplayed the incident. “Ni-release naman sila later nu’ng nalaman na may hinihintay,” Albayalde said. (They were later released when cops found out they were just waiting for someone.)
Speaking to Rappler in a phone interview, Makati City police chief Senior Superintendent Rogelio Simon surmised that Dimaranan’s group was mistaken for criminals because there were suspects nearby who were nabbed for drinking in public, then later found allegedly carrying illegal drugs.
Simon downplayed the incident by saying Dimaranan’s group was invited kindly by cops to their station.
“Sabihin na natin na suspected. They were invited na maayos at napakiusapan kung puwede sumama. Sumama naman daw kasi nakiusap at na-invite,” Simon said. (Let’s say that they were suspected. They were invited correctly and requested to come with them. They came with us because we requested and invited them.)
Makati’s top cop said he has yet to confirm whether the group of friends was put inside a jail cell, but said cops present told him the group was only detained, “para hindi makatakas (so they couldn’t escape).”
Simon added that Dimaranan’s group underwent “profiling,” a process commonly executed on criminal suspects where their names, contact, and address details are recorded for future police use.
Policeman sacked, under probe
Simon told Rappler that he has already sacked one policeman from Makati Police Station 7 after he ordered a pre-charge investigation on the detention.
Simon refused to name the cop, but disclosed that he held the rank of “Senior Police Officer 1.”
Albayalde repeated on Monday that cops cannot arrest people just because they stand idly by in public places. (READ: Nearly 3,000 ‘tambays’ arrested in Metro Manila since Duterte order)
“If there is no violation, then there is no reason. If you’re just waiting in front of your house or waiting for a tricycle, I think they won’t be arrested,” Albayalde said in Filipino.
In a statement on Monday, opposition senator Francis Pangilinan pointed out that “Republic Act 10158 has decriminalized vagrancy, amending Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code.”
“Para po sa mga tagapagpatupad ng batas, hindi na po krimen ang tumambay, o mag-loiter…. Kayo ang dapat manguna sa pagsunod ng batas at hindi pasimuno sa paglabag dito. Sumunod sa batas at hindi sa utos na lumabag dito,” said Pangilinan.
(For the law enforcers, loitering is no longer a crime…. You should be the ones leading the way in terms of abiding by the law and not the ones who are first to violate it. Follow the law and not the instruction to violate it.)