Vice-President Leni Robredo has denounced the administration’s campaign against loiterers as “anti-poor.”
“It’s like the law enforcement officials have been given the license to abuse,” Robredo said in her Sunday radio show, BISErbisyong LENI, on RMN-dzXL 558.
“We have already seen the danger during the height of the anti-drug war. We are repeating that again,” she said.
Robredo added that President Duterte’s “flip-flopping” statements on the issue have “only added to the confusion.”
On June 13, the President threatened loiterers (“tambay” in Filipino) to stay home or be thrown into a river.
“My directive is, if you’re just standing by [in the streets], tell them, ‘Go home. If you don’t go home, I’ll bring you to the office in Pasig,” he said. “I’ll take care of it. Tie their hands together and I’ll throw them in [the river].”
The police apparently took President Duterte’s words as a directive to round up people who are out in the streets at night.
“Maybe it became controversial because no less than the President has said it—that loiterers should be arrested,” Philippine National Police director-general Oscar Albayalde reportedly said on Friday.
Controversy erupted after Genesis Argoncillo, who was arrested on June 15, was reportedly beaten to death while in detention. The Quezon City police have issued conflicting statements on the cause of his death.
President Duterte on Friday backtracked on his remark and pointed out that he never mentioned the word “arrest.”
He said: “I never said ‘arrested.’ But if you are drinking in the alley, in the squatters area, and making a living room out of the road there, you’ll really get nabbed.”
In light of the uncertainty, Robredo, a former public attorney, said community leaders and lawyers should help ensure that human rights—especially those of the poor—are respected.
“We are calling on [everyone] to know what to do if there’s a danger that we will become victims,” she said. “The lawyers, we are asking to group together and help each other combat these [dangers].”
Robredo’s Liberal Party echoed her statement. Erin Tañada, LP vice-president for external affairs, said on Sunday that “we are seeing shades of the anti-illegal [drug] war in this revived campaign against the ‘tambays’ who are mostly poor.”
“We question the motivation for this campaign. Is it to distract us from the real issues that the government has not addressed: hunger and poverty, lack of jobs and rising prices, corruption in high places?” Tañada said. /ee
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