25 adults, 43 minors ‘arrested’ for violating ‘general curfew’ in Surigao City

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Jan) – A total of 25 adults and 43 minors were brought to the police station for two consecutive days for violating the “general curfew” that the police implemented starting Monday.

All, however, were released immediately after they were informed about the “general curfew,” said Supt. Jay Baybayan, city police chief.

The city council earlier passed City Ordinance 310 declaring curfew for minors starting from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.

Baybayan, in a letter to Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas dated January 8, declared the implementation of a “general curfew” – also from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. – effective immediately supposedly because of the “series of incidents” in the city. He explained to MindaNews that this time, the curfew also applies to adults.

He noted that since the start of the year, there have been a robbery at the offices of the Philippine Information Agency, the Cokaliong Shipping Lines, and Globe Telecommunications. He further noted the armed robbery at at Sitio Banahaw in Barangay Sabang an a stabbing incident at P. Reyes Extension.

“These crimes were … perpetrated either late at night or early at dawn,” Baybayan pointed out.

He said the curfew declaration was “in relation to Presidential Proclamation No. 216 declaring te Island of Mindanao under the state of Martial Law.”

Baybayan vowed to “continue to observe the rule of law and human rights” and promised to “immediately restore peace and order” in the city.

Mayor Matugas apparently gave his nod to the “general curfew” as he wrote, also on January 8, to the barangay captains informating them of the police’s order.

Several persons have criticized the implementation of the general curfew.

Former city councilor and human rights lawyer Jose Begil Jr. said the general curfew has no legal basis.

“Bringing a person to the police station or anywhere just because he happens to be in the way of city police officers after 12 midnight amounts to arresting that person and the arrest is unlawful and there would also be an undue restriction of freedom of movement in violation of constitutional right,” Begil said.

While Begil appreciates the noble intention of the police to keep peace and order to prevent criminality, he said the police can still accomplish their purpose without having to resort to a curfew.

Philippine Independent Church Bishop Rhee Timbang said the general curfew is against human rights.

“It is regrettable that PNP Surigao City is implementing this general curfew. For one, the curfew implementation is an over-reaction. Two, its implementation is for a wrong reason. It cannot curb criminality in the city,” said the bishop, adding that police visibility, street patrol, speedy police action, better community relations, and professionalism are needed most.

Timbang stressed that the curfew could only project a bad picture of the city and might discourage tourists and investors. “Worse, it can do more damage to human rights and civil liberties of our people,” he added.

“Incidence of violations against human rights and civil liberties committed by state security forces that include the police is rising at the moment in the city. The curfew implementation might worsen the situation. Martial law does not and cannot suspend fundamental rights,” Timbang said in a text message.

Roman Catholic Bishop Antonieto Cabajog said the imposition of curfew may be important to restore law and order, but he pointed out that there should be exceptions.

Lawyer Rise Faith Recabo, a city councilor, told MindaNews she was not certain on the legality of the police’s general curfew.

“I think City Ordinance 310 is applicable to minors. I am not certain on the city PNP’s basis for the general curfew. The mayor I believe has sanctioned this,” she said.

But Recabo said the arrested adults could question the police. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)