National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said should the CHR find any policeman accountable for Argoncillo’s death, he would not hesitate to mete out corresponding sanctions.
Edd Gumban
PNP vows cooperation in CHR tambay probe
Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2018 - 12:00am

Senate to investigate Tisoy’s death

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police will fully cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the probe on the death of detainee Genesis Argoncillo inside a police jail in Quezon City.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said should the CHR find any policeman accountable for Argoncillo’s death, he would not hesitate to mete out corresponding sanctions.

“We also want to know the truth behind the detainee’s death. So we would cooperate fully in the CHR’s probe of the incident and present any policeman they summon,” Eleazar said in an interview over the weekend.

Argoncillo, 22, was picked up June 15 for not wearing a shirt while outside his house in Barangay Sauyo, Novaliches.

Earlier, President Duterte ordered authorities to make sure that the streets are cleared of tambays or street loiterers, whom he considered as “potential trouble for the public.”

Duterte later clarified that he only ordered the police to accost and not arrest tambays because loitering is not a crime.

Eleazar has ordered all policemen not to arrest tambays not violating any city ordinance.

More than 7,000 tambay have been rounded up in Metro Manila for offenses related to local ordinances. Argoncillo was one of those accosted.

Eleazar insisted that the NCRPO has witnesses testifying that Argoncillo was beaten badly by two fellow inmates at the detention cell of Station 4 of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) in Novaliches on the night of June 18. The victim died the next day.

Murder charges were filed against Justine Mercado and Richard Bautista, both members of the Sputnik Gang, before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.

Eleazar said the NCRPO expects that more witnesses will come out to further strenghten the cases agaist Mercado and Bautista.

The Criminal Investigation and Detective Unit (CIDU) of the QCPD also included in its probe the possible laxity on the part of policemen detailed to guard the jail.

“We are determing the lapses of the policemen guarding the jail. We wanted to know why they failed to react accordingly at the time the inmates were beating up Argoncillo,” Eleazar said.

Eleazar made the comment after CHR spokeperson Jacquiline de Guia said the commission is

investigating the police officers involved in the arrest and detention of Argoncillo for possible violation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009

She noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which seeks to protect the rights of detained individuals.

“Authorities are liable when there are violations of the provisions of the law and the convention,” she added.

The anti-torture law aims to “ensure that the human rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners, are respected at all times.”

Senate inquiry

Opposition Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV is seeking an inquiry into the suspicious death of Argoncillo under the custody of Quezon City police.

Aquino said yesterday he intends to file this week a resolution calling for an investigation by the Senate into the incident, which he warned was another sign that the Duterte administration’s various anti-crime programs were being abused.

“The victim was, again, poor,” he added.

Sen. Francis Escudero said local officials who have issued such anti-loitering ordinances should be at the forefront of enforcing their regulations, not the police. “What are the local and barangay officials doing? It’s their ordinance,” Escudero told dzBB.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, earlier asked why Argoncillo was detained alongside suspects accused of heinous crimes.

“The first question to be answered by the police authorities is, why the victim, who was picked up for mere loitering, or at worst, for violation of some city ordinance was detained along with detainees facing murder charges,” Lacson said.

“If light offenders like Argoncillo wasn’t mixed with hardened criminals, his death could have been prevented,” he added.

Robredo: Prevent abuses

Vice President Leni Robredo urged community leaders and lawyers to ensure there will be no violation of human rights in the Duterte administration’s crackdown on tambays.

Robredo, a public interest lawyer, also urged citizens to be vigilant and be aware of their rights “to

prevent abuses similar to those committed under the war against drugs.”

“We call on the public to know their rights if there is a danger of being a victim (of the anti-loitering campaign). We also appeal to our community leaders to help and for our lawyers to form a group and work together to fight this,” Robredo said in her weekly program BISErbisyong Leni over dzXL.

Robredo noted that vagrancy has been decriminalized, and the order against loiterers, in effect, sets aside the legislative act on the matter.

“It’s as if you’re giving the law enforcement officers the license to abuse others. We already saw this danger at the height of the anti-drug war and we’re doing this again,” she said.

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also slammed the government’s ongoing crackdown on street loiterers.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chair of CBCP episcopal commission on the laity, branded the latest campaign of the Philippine National Police as “anti-poor” and believed that it would only pave the way to abuses.

“The operation is an anti-poor program because the poor will be the ones to be victimized and it is very open to abuse by the police,” the prelate explained in an interview. “It will not solve criminality because it does not address the deep causes of criminality, which are poverty and joblessness.”

The prelate pointed out that the drive “will just cause fear among the poorer communities.”

Arrest of tambay anti-crime

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, chair of the House committee on government reorganization, has defended the Duterte government’s crackdown on tambays.

“The President’s order against tambays is really just part of his anti-criminality campaign, which we support. I’m in favor of the President’s directive to have tambays in the streets sent home and possibly arrested if they insist on remaining in the streets,” Romualdo said.

“Under the Civil Code, obstructing or interfering with the free passage of streets is considered a nuisance. Moreover, it is a public nuisance because it affects the community, the neighborhood, or a considerable number of persons; and a public nuisance can be abated or removed without judicial proceedings.”

“Thus, the police may abate tambays by immediately sending them home. If there are local ordinances that penalize tambays, police officers may also invoke these ordinances to arrest violators,” he added.

PNP must have clear protocols

For Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, chair of the House committee on public information, the PNP should “come up with a clear set of protocols and bases for its implementation of arrests.”

“The PNP protocols should not just clearly state the situations of probable cause, but also the specific provisions of national laws and local ordinances authorizing the police to conduct roundups or make arrests without warrants,” she added.

Dy also endorsed House Bill 7513, or the proposed Unsafe Hours for Children Act that she authored, as a measure to protect children from the risk of being wrongly apprehended by policemen. The bill seeks to prohibit minors from wandering in the streets from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.  With Edu Punay, Helen Flores, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla

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