Man arrested for being shirtless, dies apparently due to Duterte’s anti-loitering policy

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By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent

Sen. Bam Aquino filed a resolution seeking to investigate the government’s policy against loitering and the death of 25-year old Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, who died in the custody of the Quezon City Police District four days after he was arrested.

“There were many irreconcilable details but for me, Tisoy should not have died,” said Aquino who filed Senate Resolution No. 772.

In his resolution, Aquino called the campaign against loitering as untenable, discriminatory and anti-poor as he urged the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, headed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, to investigate the matter to protect ordinary Filipinos from unjust, discriminatory and abusive policies and practices.

“There is a need to assess whether the PNP’s anti-tambay campaign, as well as the local ordinances on which they are supposedly based, are consistent with national laws and the Constitution,” said Aquino.

Aquino filed the resolution days after Argoncillo died in the custody of the Quezon City Police District. Argoncillo was arrested on June 15 for allegedly causing alarm and scandal but died four days later.

The PNP issued different statements regarding Argoncillo’s death. First, it claimed that it was due to self-inflicted trauma then changed it to suffocation due to the severe congestion of prison cells.

After Argoncillo’s death certificate revealed that he died from multiple blunt force trauma to his neck, head, chest and upper extremities, the QCPD claimed that he died after he was mauled by fellow inmates.

“He merely went to a store. He was arrested because he was shirtless. There’s now a wake for him. This is hurting the family of the victim and the country. The different (police versions of) Tisoy’s death is alarming,” stressed Aquino.

Several citizens also claimed that they were arrested while waiting outside the gate of a friend’s house in Makati City. They were detained for one hour and were shown a video of President Duterte’s pronouncement against “tambays” as basis for their detention.

On June 17, 2018, a social media post showed CCTV footage of a shirtless man who was accosted in front of his house by roving police seconds after he stepped out of the door in Novaliches, Quezon City. The man, Ariel Morco, was not arrested but was ordered to clean the bathroom of the police station.

He pointed out that, “Majority of those apprehended were poor and most of the police operations were done in poor communities. Let us stop burdening the poor.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will investigate Argoncillo’s death
after he was arrested in a crackdown on loiterers.

“The CHR is now investigating to (determine) the possible liability of the police in this incident,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia.

She reminded policemen that even detainees have rights that they must protect.

The police could have committed negligence resulting in the detainee dying or suffering injuries inside their detention cell, the CHR said.

Argoncillo’s treatment could be considered torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment under Republic Act 9745 and the Convention Against Torture.

On June 15, Argoncillo was picked up during the QCPD’s anti-loitering campaign in front of a variety store near his house in Novaliches because he was not wearing a shirt.

QCPD Chief Supt. Joselito Esquivel Jr. said Friday three witnesses have surfaced to identify two suspects who beat up and killed Argoncillo. He ordered the filing of murder cases before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office against Sputnik Gang members Justine Mercado and Richard Bautista, along with some other detainees, who conspired in beating up Argoncillo at the police’s lock-up cell.

A total of 7,291 people was apprehended from June 13 to June 20 in operations launched after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered authorities to step up the campaign against loiterers on the streets.

People were arrested for violating curfew ordinances, for drinking in public places or streets, for being half-naked in the streets, and for smoking in public.

Also apprehended were illegal vendors, videoke curfew violators, litterers, illegal barkers as well as those who violated the traffic code.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan called for the suspension of the crackdown against loiterers after the killing of Argoncillo.

Pangilinan said Argoncillo would not have died if he were not arrested in the controversial government campaign.

“The initial attempt to cover up the case by the police claiming he was mentally ill is also unacceptable and should be dealt with squarely,” he added.

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