Surigao City’s curfew takes a toll on tricycle drivers, balut vendors

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 January) —  The city’s 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew has led to the arrest of close to a hundred minors and dozens of adults but has taken its toll on businesses that operate at night, reducing incomes of tricycle drivers and balut vendors, among others.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Surigao City headed by Police Supt. Jay Baybayan launched the curfew last January 8 due to a series of robbery incidents that hit the city.

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

Tricycle drivers who operate at night said their incomes have dropped as streets are deserted because of the curfew.

SHOE IN THE PARK. Christmas lights wrapped around a giant replica of a shoe at the Luneta Park in Surigao City on December 9, 2014. Built in the 1970s, the structure houses a power generator that services the City Hall, police headquarters, fire department and public market during blackouts. It also has a siren that sounds off every day and night and during emergencies. MindaNews file photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

“No one would come around in the city by 10 in the evening thus we have no passengers and that translates to a huge loss of income,” tricycle driver Kenneth Auditor said in Surigaonon.

Auditor is one of several tricycle drivers working the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, and are referred to as “overtimers.”

“There were about 400 to 500 of us who ply the streets at night time,” he told MindaNews.

Another tricycle driver, Judy Escopete, said the “general curfew” has reduced their incomes.

“This is a bad year to start with. Meager income gives us a headache,” he said as he likened the situation now during the nights after the 6.9 magnitude quake that rocked Surigao on February 10, 2017.

He lamented that the streets are “virtually empty at night.” Escopete used to earn 650 up to 800 pesos from 7 p.m.  to 7 a.m. but now earns only half of that.

Escopete noticed a lot of tricycle drivers no longer ply at night. But driving is his only source of living. He has six children in school.

Balut vendors said their incomes have dramatically decreased, too.

“To earn a living gets tough because of this curfew implementation,” said balut vendor Toto Magpayo.

Incomes of establishments such as convenience stores and drug stores  have also plunged due to the curfew.

“It affects us on a nightly basis,” said Jody Degamon, assistant pharmacist of Aquarian Pharma, a drugstore that operates 24/7.

James Aclo, a supervisor of Andoks, a food chain company, says their earnings have plummeted.

Precious Garcia, a cashier of Pick Me, a 24/7 convenience store which has several branches, said their sales at night went down at 30 to 40 percent.

Residents who have been relying on public transport at night have complained that it takes time for them to get a ride.

If you want to go out and buy something, you must patience, you have to wait until a tricycle comes, they said.

As of January 18,  at least 90 minors and 32 adults had been arrested for violating the curfew, Police Chief Inspector Dorothy M. Tumulak, spokesperson of the city police, said.

In its public advisory last Friday, the city police changed the name of “general curfew” to OPLAN Bantay Syudad.

This after the city council assailed its implementation.

“This is to inform the public that Surigao City Police Station is renaming /revising “General Curfew” to “Oplan Bantay Syudad” which has the same concept of operation. It is the comprehensive application of all PNP’s operation plans and instructions which are all in line with the existing laws, ordinance, rules and regulations effective immediately,” the advisory said.

Police chief Baybayan, in a letter to Mayor Ernesto 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, robbery incidents have been reported at the offices of the Philippine Information Agency, the Cokaliong Shipping Lines, and Globe Telecommunications, the armed robbery at Sitio Banahaw in Barangay Sabang and a stabbing incident at P. Reyes Extension.

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

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

In response to Baybayan’s letter, Mayor Matugas wrote, also on January 8, the barangay captains informing them of the police’s order.

Several persons have criticized the implementation of the general curfew and its successor, Oplan Bantay Syudad.

“Local PNP authorities have semantics issue, never mentioned the legality of the operation which would arrest including adults. Shame on them,” Jan Lisondra said.

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

“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. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)