Going after loiterers is not a prelude to declaring martial law nationwide, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday.
He told reporters martial law would remain only in Mindanao because of the continuing threat of terrorism and armed conflicts, and that declaring martial law in the entire Philippines would become very complicated.
“The President has absolutely no intention right now unless there would be reasons to do so. There is no reason for him to declare martial law,” Roque said.
In other developments:
• Senator Panfilo Lacson said the law on vagrancy was decriminalized in 2012 with the passage of Republic Act 10158.
Unless there were other existing laws that could be used by the authorities to arrest alleged loiterers, the police action against them could be questioned before the Supreme Court, Lacson said.
• Two lawmakers on Tuesday slammed the campaign of the National Police to get rid of loiterers, saying the arrest without warrants of the more than 5,000 people in the last five days in Metro Manila violated their human rights.
Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro made the remarks in reaction to the announcement of the National Capital Region Police Office that it had arrested 5,575 individuals from June 13 to June 18. That was after President Rodrigo Duterte gave a directive in a speech last June 13 against loiterers whom he said were potential criminals.
“This is another show of an iron hand and disdain of the law despite the existence of larger and underlying problems the Duterte administration should face,” Tinio said.
“It should be clear to law enforcers and to President Duterte a person cannot be arrested on the mere suspicion that he or she is up to no good or could be a potential criminal.”
Castro said the illegal arrest of the tambays or loiterers violated their human rights.
On Duterte’s directive to round up street loiterers, Roque said, both the Interior department and the Philippine National Police were already working on the guidelines for the implementation of such directive.
“Let’s wait for the guidelines of the DILG and the PNP,” Roque said.
He said the police were accosting only those violating city or municipal ordinances.