We don’t arrest vagrants, only violators of laws: NCRPO chief

MANILA National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) chief Guillermo Eleazar clarified that policemen do not arrest vagrants (tambays), but only those violating laws, such as ordinances.

In the Philippine News Agency (PNA) show Pros and Cons aired every Friday, Eleazar said the police have arrested 32,803 violators of local ordinances. They are not vagrants, they are those who violated local ordinances," he said.

He stressed that vagrancy was already decriminalized and the police force only arrests individuals for specific violations, such as on decency, peace and order, cigarette smoking in public places, drinking in public places, gambling, and curfew for minors. Vagrancy was already repealed in the Revised Penal Code in 2012.

Eleazar explained that the campaign was created to accomplish the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to make the streets safe. However, he said the police force will still "work within the limits of the law" through the "enforcement of local ordinances."

"We've been doing this for a long time. For the past two years, we have strengthened this, because we saw this is a good intervention for our anti-criminality campaign," the NCRPO chief added.

Eleazar stressed that ignoring petty crimes could encourage violations of more serious ones.

As of last July 6, a total of 32,803 had been apprehended for violating local ordinances, with 58 percent or 19,000 only given warnings, 28 percent or 9,000 fined by the local government units, 14 percent or 4,475 filed with cases, and 26 remain in jails.

First-time offenders were only reprimanded and brought to the barangay to be fetched by their parents, while others were only fined for their violations.

Eleazar noted that policemen, who made erroneous arrests were relieved from their posts and were placed under investigation, including the policemen who handled the case of Genesis Agoncillo alias Tisoy. Last June 19, Agoncillo died in jail at the Novaliches Police Station in Quezon City after he was arrested due to reports of alarm and scandal.

The former Quezon City Police District (QCPD) head said the campaign, which aims to protect law-abiding citizens who fear the streets, should not be stopped due to some cases of abuse.

Eleazar pointed out the public should report the cases of abuse instead so they could file the appropriate cases. Eleazar assured he will not allow cases of abuse by policemen to be left unpunished.

Meanwhile, SANLAKAS secretary general Aaron Pedrosa said the campaign has led to a public fear of policemen instead of bad elements.

"Before, they are scared of bad elements for their safety, now they are scared of the police," he said.

Pedrosa added the campaign also violated the right to freedom of association with the arrests.

"The crackdown on crime is right, but not at the expense of freedom of association," he said.

Pedrosa also cited five cases, where the arrests led to death, adding the families of the victims approached SANLAKAS.

The lawyer further said vagrants often roam the streets due to lack of employment caused by the end of contract, more commonly known in the Philippines as "endo".

He, however, supported the implementation of curfew by the policemen. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency