By Genalyn Kabiling and Leslie Ann Aquino
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo took a swipe at groups questioning President Duterte’s anti-criminality campaign for allegedly fomenting anarchy in the country.
Panelo made the statement after defending the President’s latest campaign the clear the streets of “tambays” or idlers in a bid to prevent crimes.
“The President stays committed in promoting peace and order with zero tolerance for criminal activities. Those who question the President’s good intention are in effect encouraging misconducts and wrongdoings towards an anarchistic nation,” Panelo said.
He explained the President merely wanted to ensure public safety and deter crimes when he asked persons who idle or loiter in the streets to return to their houses.
“Such a directive is only a measure in enforcing the law and deterring crimes that may be instigated by these potential mischief-makers,” he said.
“The President, in issuing such directive, only has the pure intention of protecting our citizens when they walk to and from their abodes from harassment, being very much aware that all sorts of the same ensue at streets and are caused by these idlers and loiterers,” he said.
The President recently directed the police to be strict towards people loitering the streets, saying they were potential trouble for the public. The former Davao City mayor said these idlers should be asked to return to their houses.
Thousands of persons have been rounded up by the police since the President’s directive, triggering criticisms from some groups that the government was discriminating against the poor.
Duterte later clarified that he never ordered the arrest of tambays, saying loitering was not a crime. But he stressed those violating city ordinances such as drinking in public must be apprehended.
An official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has branded the directive of the President as anti-poor.
CBCP-Episcopal Commission on the Laity Chair Bishop Broderick Pabillo said it is anti-poor because it will be the poor who will be victimized by such operation.
The Manila Auxiliary prelate added that it is also very open to “abuse” by the police.
Bishop Pabillo also believes that the operations against loiterers will not solve criminality.
“It will not solve criminality because it does not address the deep causes of criminality, which are poverty and joblessness,” said Pabillo.
“It will just cause fear among the poorer communities,” he added.
Asked if he supports the call for its suspension, Pabillo answered: Instead of saying to suspend it the government should account first for the more than 23,000 killed under investigation.
First things first.
Not ‘martial law’
Panelo, meantime, shot down speculations that the President’s anti-crime drive was similar to the dire situation during the martial law period. Such comparison was “an imagined theory which is not only unfair but baseless as well,” he said.
“This measure applies to all citizens regardless of political beliefs or affiliations or whether they are for or against this Administration,” he said.
“At the same time, people can rest assured that there are enough checks to ensure that police personnel do not abuse their authorities for otherwise, they will feel the full weight of the law against them,” he said.
Panelo likewise assured that the President respects the rights of persons, citing there was no move to arrest people who don’t violate any law.