HRW: Anti-tambay policy 'retraumatizes' communities affected by drug war


MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday, June 26, slammed the anti-tambay campaign as another effort to target poor Filipinos.

In a statement, HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said the new campaign by the Philippine National Police (PNP) "retraumatizes" groups already victimized by President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

"The PNP is conducting a 'crime prevention' campaign that essentially jails low-income Filipinos for being in public," he said.

He added: "This campaign threatens to retraumatize residents of communities already terrorized by 'drug war' executions and is risking the detainees' health and safety."

It was less than two weeks ago, on June 14, when Duterte reiterated a previous directive to go after tambays.

More than 3,000 people have been arrested in Metro Manila alone since Duterte repeated his order. They were arrested for allegedly violating local ordinances on public smoking, public drinking, and curfews, among others. 

The government's policy against loitering, however, became controversial after it resulted to the death of 25-year-old Genesis "Tisoy" Agoncillo, who was arrested by police in Quezon City. PNP officials issued different statements regarding his death. (READ: Photos, death certificate show Genesis 'Tisoy' Argoncillo beaten to death

Human rights groups and lawmakers had warned that the campaign could open "a floodgate of abuses." Kine, meanwhile, said that it exposes the abuses of the police. 

"The police are again demonstrating their preference for wielding fear, intimidation, and arbitrary arrest to target vulnerable communities rather than respect for the rule of law," Kine said.

"The Philippine government should protect the basic rights of all Filipinos rather than let the police demolish them on the pretext of a 'crime prevention' campaign," he added.

The Philippines' Commission on Human Rights had reiterated that vagrancy is not a crime. It was decriminalized through Republic Act 10158 signed in 2012 by former president Benigno Aquino III.

"Nagdudulot ito ng stigma at diskriminasyon dahil nagpaparusa ito batay sa social status, mode of life, at reputasyon ng tao at hindi sa aktwal na aksyon o ginawa ng indibidwal," CHR said.

"Nagkakaroon rin ng mga pangamba na tila tayo ay bumabalik sa madilim na panahon ng Martial Law kung saan inaaresto ang mga indibidwal ng walang warrant of arrest kung kaya't bukas sa pang-aabuso."

(This causes stigma and discrimination because it punishes based on social status, mode of life, and reputation and not on one's action. It's as if we're going back to the dark times of Martial Law when people were arbitrarily arrested.) –

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.