May 10, 2012
ANTI-POOR VAGRANCY LAW ABOLISHED
Calling the measure "outdated" and "anti-poor," Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada hailed the recent passage and enactment of a law decriminalizing vagrancy.
President Noynoy Aquino signed Republic Act 10158 which decriminalizes vagrancy last March 27, 2012. The letter from the Office of the President transmitting to the Senate two original copies of the law was taken up by the chamber last Tuesday, following a six-week congressional recess.
Sen. Estrada, principal author of the measure through Senate Bill 915, states that the vagrancy law has been exploited by authorities to oppress the poor and the homeless.
In SB No. 915 explanatory note Sen. Estrada cites, "There are numerous reports of arbitrary arrests by the police as a result of the wide discretion afforded to law enforcement by the vagrancy law. Police have rounded up the poor, accusing them of vagrancy and holding them on prison cells. Numerous cases of street children arbitrarily arrested by the police have likewise been documented."
In the same document, Sen. Estrada also shares that historically vagrancy laws were passed to discourage the idleness of the population and were created bearing the concept of criminality. Over time, human rights organizations questioned the concept behind the law, while some countries had stricken off vagrancy laws as unconstitutional.
Vagrancy was classified as a criminal offense under Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code.
Vagrants were defined as: 1) Any person having no apparent means of subsistence, who has the physical ability to work and who neglects to apply himself or herself to some lawful calling; 2) Any person found loitering about public places or wandering about the streets without visible means of support; 3) Any idle or dissolute person who ledges in houses of ill fame, ruffians or pimps and those who habitually associate with prostitutes.
RA 10158 also provides that persons serving sentence for vagrancy law shall be immediately released upon effectivity, provided that they are not serving sentence or detained for any other offense.
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