Better safe than sorry: The anti-tambay crackdown

HOTSPOT - Mocha Uson - The Philippine Star

On June 14, President Duterte gave a directive to the newly promoted cops to go after tambays. In his words: “My directive is ‘pag mag-istambay-istambay sabihin ninyo, ‘Umuwi kayo. ‘Pag ‘di kayo umuwi, ihatid ko kayo don sa opisina ni ano don, Pasig’. Ako na ang bahala, ilagay mo lang diyan. Talian mo sa kamay pati bin-ihulog mo diyan sa ano. Do not - you be strict. Part of confronting people just idling around. They are potential trouble for the public.”

Once again, his words were taken out of context by most mainstream media channels and likewise by some politicians who are now making a big deal about the issue, to think that the directive is taking action toward a lingering ordeal being faced by our society: threat to public safety.

In essence, there is nothing wrong with loitering, or idling around in public places. However, loitering puts one under suspicion to be capable of committing crimes, and this is what the government, through this directive is trying to address. When one chooses to idle around, it shows that he or she is more or less not doing anything productive. It also makes them open to doing things that they are not inclined to do when they are busy with more meaningful activities. Loitering also shows a picture of a society that is not keen in improving its current status, as its people opt to idle around rather than look for ways to utilize their skills and God-given talents. Is this the kind of society that we would want to live in?

Now, just to be clear, tambays are apprehended and taken to custody not because of this directive nor because of loitering per se; but because there are local government ordinances that are being violated. There are cities and municipalities that have acted upon issues of vagrancy by imposing curfews, prohibiting drinking on the streets, idling areas not designated for the public to hang out at. These ordinances however, were not being taken seriously until the directive was pronounced by the President himself.

In 2012, the Aquino administration signed the bill decriminalizing vagrancy. I believe this was a mistake because rather than highlighting the inherent right of movement and expression, it opened doors for potential public disturbances to take place. I don’t think this is the kind of environment we would want to live in, an environment that doesn’t ensure our safety, an environment where people are wary of each other as they don’t know with whom they can be safe when in public.

The directive of apprehending tambays is not a means to hamper our freedom to move. Rather, it is an urge for us Filipinos to realize that freedom comes with the responsibility to respect and uphold the law. At the same time, it is a call for us to practice discipline, as peace and order in society cannot be done by the President alone, or by the government alone. It is instead a team effort and requires the action of each and every Filipino.

I do not understand the point of amplifying the apprehension of tambays and taking the directive out of context. I have seen a lot of satirical posts and parodies circulating on social media about the risk of getting apprehended just because one is loitering in coffee shops or places intended for recreation, without even taking consideration of the legal justifications of vagrancy. These are actually a direct form of misleading the public. They tell a narrative of a government that imposes fear on society, to think that it is doing the exact opposite: it urges society to practice discipline, responsibility and respect for the law.

Do we want our children to live in fear of walking in the streets because they are not sure if the tambays around would not do them harm?

Do we want our fellow Filipinos to continue idling around, wasting time on the streets rather than making themselves productive and useful to their families and to society?

Do we want to continue being misled by nitpickers who cannot walk the talk when it comes to critiquing the government?

I don’t. We don’t deserve these. Hence, let’s take part in exercising discipline and make ourselves better as a nation. And we can start by putting an end to this practice of being tambays once and for all.



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