I don’t know why media people are reacting to old news as if they’ve just been born the past hour. Their strange reaction undoubtedly picked up by the viewing or listening public is bad influence. Bad as in fake as in divisive as in disinformative. As expected, they are quick to comment reacting without thinking apparently with no depth of knowledge on the subject of their report. Parents, if they cared at all, would unfailingly tell their children to get home straight away from school “hwag tumambay kung saan saan” malls (millenials’ favorite tambayan) included. Have media people forgotten that they too at one time have been recipients of the fair warning from their own parents?
The opposite of vagrancy or loitering is purpose. What the law in effect asks of citizens is to be aware, to be mindful of what we do. To be good citizens of the Republic. The law challenges citizens to work out for ourselves purpose-driven lives. We won’t achieve that with mindless behavior.
Why am I shrieking Guns n’ Roses at 10,000 decibels in the middle of the night in the middle of the street of 100,000 schoolgoing children and working people inside 10,000 houses both sides? Why am I doing it? Why am I drinking myself to death, as if there’s no tomorrow, with the street as my table and bed as well? Why am I doing it? Am I even aware of the repercussions? Why do I walk about in the street with my shirt off and expect others to regard it as normal whereas if I’m female and I do the same thing I’d be ridiculed even stoned? If we can justify these behavior without feeling an ounce of guilt or doubt then we’re vagrants– mindless people. People who don’t give a shit at all about themselves and others. It’s like committing suicide and murder at the same time only that the infliction on their victims (self and the others) is beyond physical. It’s on the mind and the psyche, until all sense of self respect becomes convoluted.
For people who know better to do nothing about the malady (it is, considering vagrancy was unheard of or minimal in our grandparents time) constitutes gross neglect. To apprehend the behavior now is actually saving the person before it’s too late. Apparently, families and communities fail to do that forcing the State’s hand on the matter.
The President merely reiterated a long neglected provision of the law that sitting ducks ie. local government units specifically the barangay, well, sat on. The provision in the Revised Penal Code on vagrancy has been established constitutional provided certain standards are in place. The following SC decision explains why it is so.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 169364
Ynares-Santiago, J . (Chairperson),
– versus – Chico-Nazario,
Bersamin*, JJ .
EVANGELINE SITON y SACIL and
KRYSTEL KATE SAGARANO y Promulgated:
Respondents. September 18, 2009
x —————————————————————————————- x
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J .:
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari is the July 29, 2005 Order of Branch 11, Davao City Regional Trial Court in Special Civil Case No. 30-500-2004 granting respondents Petition for Certiorari and declaring paragraph 2 of Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code unconstitutional.
Respondents Evangeline Siton and Krystel Kate Sagarano were charged with vagrancy pursuant to Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code in two separate Informations dated November 18, 2003, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 115,716-C-2003 and 115,717-C-2003 and raffled to Branch 3 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Davao City. The Informations, read:
That on or about November 14, 2003, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned accused, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously wandered and loitered around San Pedro and Legaspi Streets, this City, without any visible means to support herself nor lawful and justifiable purpose.
The first statute punishing vagrancy Act No. 519 was modeled after American vagrancy statutes and passed by the Philippine Commission in 1902. The Penal Code of Spain of 1870 which was in force in this country up to December 31, 1931 did not contain a provision on vagrancy. While historically an Anglo-American concept of crime prevention, the law on vagrancy was included by the Philippine legislature as a permanent feature of the Revised Penal Code in Article 202 thereof which, to repeat, provides:
ART. 202. Vagrants and prostitutes; penalty . The following are vagrants:
- 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;
- Any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places, or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support;
- Any idle or dissolute person who lodges in houses of ill-fame; ruffians or pimps and those who habitually associate with prostitutes;
- Any person who, not being included in the provisions of other articles of this Code, shall be found loitering in any inhabited or uninhabited place belonging to another without any lawful or justifiable purpose;
The Regional Trial Court, in asserting the unconstitutionality of Article 202, take support mainly from the U.S. Supreme Courts opinion in the Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville case.
The underlying principles in Papachristou are that: 1) the assailed Jacksonville ordinance fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute; and 2) it encourages or promotes opportunities for the application of discriminatory law enforcement.
The said underlying principle in Papachristou that the Jacksonville ordinance, or Article 202 in this case, fails to give fair notice of what constitutes forbidden conduct, finds no application here because under our legal system, ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith. This principle is of Spanish origin, and we adopted it to govern and limit legal conduct in this jurisdiction. Under American law, ignorance of the law is merely a traditional rule that admits of exceptions.
Moreover, the Jacksonville ordinance was declared unconstitutional on account of specific provisions thereof, which are not found in Article 202. The ordinance (Jacksonville Ordinance Code 257) provided, as follows:
Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging; common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses.
Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jacksonville declared the ordinance unconstitutional, because such activities or habits as nightwalking, wandering or strolling around without any lawful purpose or object , habitual loafing , habitual spending of time at places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served , and living upon the earnings of wives or minor children , which are otherwise common and normal, were declared illegal. But these are specific acts or activities not found in Article 202. The closest to Article 202 any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places, or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support from the Jacksonville ordinance, would be persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object. But these two acts are still not the same: Article 202 is qualified by without visible means of support while the Jacksonville ordinance prohibits wandering or strolling without any lawful purpose or object, which was held by the U.S. Supreme Court to constitute a trap for innocent acts.
Under the Constitution, the people are guaranteed the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Thus, as with any other act or offense, the requirement of probable cause provides an acceptable limit on police or executive authority that may otherwise be abused in relation to the search or arrest of persons found to be violating Article 202. The fear exhibited by the respondents, echoing Jacksonville , that unfettered discretion is placed in the hands of the police to make an arrest or search, is therefore assuaged by the constitutional requirement of probable cause, which is one less than certainty or proof, but more than suspicion or possibility.
Evidently, the requirement of probable cause cannot be done away with arbitrarily without pain of punishment, for, absent this requirement, the authorities are necessarily guilty of abuse. The grounds of suspicion are reasonable when, in the absence of actual belief of the arresting officers, the suspicion that the person to be arrested is probably guilty of committing the offense, is based on actual facts, i.e. , supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to create the probable cause of guilt of the person to be arrested. A reasonable suspicion therefore must be founded on probable cause, coupled with good faith of the peace officers making the arrest.
The State cannot in a cavalier fashion intrude into the persons of its citizens as well as into their houses, papers and effects. The constitutional provision sheathes the private individual with an impenetrable armor against unreasonable searches and seizures. It protects the privacy and sanctity of the person himself against unlawful arrests and other forms of restraint, and prevents him from being irreversibly cut off from that domestic security which renders the lives of the most unhappy in some measure agreeable.
As applied to the instant case, it appears that the police authorities have been conducting previous surveillance operations on respondents prior to their arrest. On the surface, this satisfies the probable cause requirement under our Constitution. For this reason, we are not moved by respondents trepidation that Article 202 could have been a source of police abuse in their case.
Since the Revised Penal Code took effect in 1932, no challenge has ever been made upon the constitutionality of Article 202 except now. Instead, throughout the years, we have witnessed the streets and parks become dangerous and unsafe, a haven for beggars, harassing watch-your-car boys, petty thieves and robbers, pickpockets, swindlers, gangs, prostitutes, and individuals performing acts that go beyond decency and morality, if not basic humanity. The streets and parks have become the training ground for petty offenders who graduate into hardened and battle-scarred criminals. Everyday, the news is rife with reports of innocent and hardworking people being robbed, swindled, harassed or mauled if not killed by the scourge of the streets. Blue collar workers are robbed straight from withdrawing hard-earned money from the ATMs (automated teller machines); students are held up for having to use and thus exhibit publicly their mobile phones; frail and helpless men are mauled by thrill-seeking gangs; innocent passers-by are stabbed to death by rowdy drunken men walking the streets; fair-looking or pretty women are stalked and harassed, if not abducted, raped and then killed; robbers, thieves, pickpockets and snatchers case streets and parks for possible victims; the old are swindled of their life savings by conniving streetsmart bilkers and con artists on the prowl; beggars endlessly pester and panhandle pedestrians and commuters, posing a health threat and putting law-abiding drivers and citizens at risk of running them over. All these happen on the streets and in public places, day or night.
The streets must be protected. Our people should never dread having to ply them each day, or else we can never say that we have performed our task to our brothers and sisters. We must rid the streets of the scourge of humanity, and restore order, peace, civility, decency and morality in them.
This is exactly why we have public order laws, to which Article 202 belongs. These laws were crafted to maintain minimum standards of decency, morality and civility in human society . These laws may be traced all the way back to ancient times, and today, they have also come to be associated with the struggle to improve the citizens quality of life, which is guaranteed by our Constitution. Civilly , they are covered by the abuse of rights doctrine embodied in the preliminary articles of the Civil Code concerning Human Relations, to the end, in part, that any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals , good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. This provision is, together with the succeeding articles on human relations, intended to embody certain basic principles that are to be observed for the rightful relationship between human beings and for the stability of the social order.
Article 202 does not violate the equal protection clause; neither does it discriminate against the poor and the unemployed. Offenders of public order laws are punished not for their status, as for being poor or unemployed, but for conducting themselves under such circumstances as to endanger the public peace or cause alarm and apprehension in the community. Being poor or unemployed is not a license or a justification to act indecently or to engage in immoral conduct.
Vagrancy must not be so lightly treated as to be considered constitutionally offensive. It is a public order crime which punishes persons for conducting themselves, at a certain place and time which orderly society finds unusual, under such conditions that are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society, as would engender a justifiable concern for the safety and well-being of members of the community.
Instead of taking an active position declaring public order laws unconstitutional, the State should train its eye on their effective implementation, because it is in this area that the Court perceives difficulties. Red light districts abound, gangs work the streets in the wee hours of the morning, dangerous robbers and thieves ply their trade in the trains stations, drunken men terrorize law-abiding citizens late at night and urinate on otherwise decent corners of our streets. Rugby-sniffing individuals crowd our national parks and busy intersections. Prostitutes wait for customers by the roadside all around the metropolis, some even venture in bars and restaurants. Drug-crazed men loiter around dark avenues waiting to pounce on helpless citizens. Dangerous groups wander around, casing homes and establishments for their next hit. The streets must be made safe once more.
Though a mans house is his castle, outside on the streets, the king is fair game.
The dangerous streets must surrender to orderly society.
It must not be forgotten that police power is an inherent attribute of sovereignty. It has been defined as the power vested by the Constitution in the legislature to make, ordain, and establish all manner of wholesome and reasonable laws, statutes and ordinances, either with penalties or without, not repugnant to the Constitution, as they shall judge to be for the good and welfare of the commonwealth, and for the subjects of the same.
The power is plenary and its scope is vast and pervasive, reaching and justifying measures for public health, public safety, public morals, and the general welfare. As an obvious police power measure, Article 202 must therefore be viewed in a constitutional light.
WHEREFORE , the petition is GRANTED . The Decision of
Branch 11 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City in Special Civil Case No. 30-500-2004 declaring Article 202, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code UNCONSTITUTIONAL is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
– Read the complete ruling at sc.judiciary.gov.ph