Church and human rights groups described the curfew in Surigao City as overreaction that “reeks of human rights violation”.
Police Superintendent Jay Baybayan, the city’s chief of police, conceded that the nighttime restriction of people’s movement was conceived following the robberies that occurred at the start of the year.
Baybayan cited the ransacking of the offices of the Philippine Information Agency, the Cokaliong Shipping Lines and Globe Telecommunications.
“These crimes were…perpetrated either late at night or early at dawn,” the police official pointed out.
Since the curfew implementation on January 8, at least 30 adults and 54 minors have been rounded up and brought to the police station.
Philippine Independent Church Bishop Rhee Timbang said the arrest adults for curfew violation was tantamount to illegal detention and “against human rights.”
“The curfew implementation is an overreaction. Also, its implementation is done for a wrong reason, as it cannot curb criminality in the city,” Bishop Timbang said.
Timbang said police visibility, street patrol, speedy police action, better community relations, and professionalism of law enforcers remain the most effective ways in combating crimes.
Roman Catholic Bishop Antonieto Cabajog agreed, saying the imposition of curfew may be important to restore law and order, but it should have legal bases.
“There should be exemptions,” Bishop Cabajog said.
Lawyer Jose Begil Jr of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said the arrested may sue the police for illegal arrest.
“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,” said Mr Begil, himself a former city councilor.
“Undue restriction of freedom of movement,” he added, “violates a Constitutional right.”
Even City Councilor Rise Faith Recabo, a lawyer, was unsure of the legality of the general curfew, saying an existing curfew ordinance only applies to minors.
“I am not certain on the city PNP’s basis for the general curfew. The mayor I believe has sanctioned this,” Councilor Recabo said, referring to Mayor Ernesto Matugas’ directive to barangay chairpersons to assist the police in implementing the citywide curfew.