PRESIDENT Duterte talked about arresting loiterers or “tambays” on street-sides and public places last Sept. 18, 2017. But it is only this week that police began cracking down in a massive scale on vagrants, resulting in the arrest of more than 3,000 people in Metro Manila, with similar campaigns in the provinces, including Cebu, to follow.
The attack on “tambays” (from the street lingo “istambay,” a corruption of the English “stand-by”) is one issue that quickly set off controversy because it is prone to abuses and mistakes in enforcement.
The public needs to know what the president has glossed over and the police seem prone to ignore, namely, that:
(1) Loitering, called vagrancy in the Revised Penal Code, is no longer a crime and therefore cannot be the basis of arrest, and
(2) Any arrest can be made only if crime is committed under an ordinance or a national law.
Blurring of lines
A number of legislators, mostly senators and party-list House members, have pointed out that vagrancy was decriminalized in 2012 yet. And on offenses committed while loitering, widespread information on pertinent national laws and city or town ordinances must be made.
Media can steer public conversation on the probable abuses from the blurring of lines between (a) non-punishable loitering and (b) punishable crime that may result from loitering.
Community media particularly will be useful in going over archives to look again at, and publish information on, city and town ordinances that regulate behavior in public places.
For example, in Cebu City there is a curfew ordinance (#1786) for minors not accompanied by parent or guardian between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. but it does not authorize arrest or detention of the minor: he or she shall be taken home to the parents. Only the parents are punishable and only after fourth and subsequent offenses will they be charged. Do the parents know that and will the police observe the requirement?
On the anti-noise ban in Cebu City, Ordinance #309, which amends the Anti-Noise Pollution Ordinance of 1940, the prohibition is between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. But only those who cause the noise, usually the owner and operator of the sound system, not the “tambays” who may dance to the music, may be hauled to the precinct for the violation.
A number of cities in Metro Manila -- such as Marikina, Manila, San Juan and Pasay -- ban half-nakedness or being shirtless on streets and public places. Does Cebu City and neighboring cities in the province have such an ordinance? There is no news report about our city penalizing public display of muscles or breasts; the anti-indecency ordinance covers shows in bars and nightclubs. A loiterer who takes off his shirt outside his house to beat the heat doesn’t strip for an audience.
Ditto with drinking liquor in public. City Ordinance #1413 prohibits service or sale of liquor within residential zone of urban areas and near (100 meters away) a school, hospital, church and other public places. One’s front yard, even if it hugs the sidewalk, is not covered by the ban.
Areas of ambiguity need to be clarified to reduce police discretion, which often breeds abuse. Given the misinformation elsewhere, media can help shed a lot of light.
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When does a columnist stop?
CHARLES Krauthammer who wrote 1,600 columns for the Washington Post in 34 years once said, “Longevity for a columnist is a simple proposition. Once you start, you don’t stop. You do it until you die or can no longer put a sentence together...”
Krauthammer, “the dean of conservative columnists,” died of cancer Friday (June 22). He was 68.
On stringing words on paper or in thought, Brian Stelter of CNN in a tribute to Krauthammer quoted Chris Wallace: “Many of us are lucky if we think in phrases. A few of us are good enough to think in sentences. Charles thought in paragraphs, even pages.” And on putting one’s ideas across, Stelter cited Bret Baier: “Charles could get to the point better than anyone. He could cut through the noise.”
Krauthammer didn’t consider for a columnist’s longevity these factors: acceptance of readers and confidence of the editor and publisher. Maybe because nowadays anyone can write a blog online forever.