Call Center Agents and the PNP Anti Tambay Drive: What Should You Do If You Get Questioned?

Sometime in June, two call center agents were rounded up by the police for supposedly violating the anti-loitering law, the cops said that they just wanted to check why they were in the area. Then the nightmare begins. The agents were brought to the police station, and they were detained for an hour. They asked about why they were being held, and instead of citing a specific law, they were shown a video of president duterte declaring his anti tambay drive. The policeman said that the president’s words were the law.

We are not making this up: the police played a duterte video to justify detainment.

The two cops responsible were relieved of their duties, both from the Police Community Precinct 7 in Makati City (one was the precinct commander). These cops were charged with abuse of discretion of authority.

Makati is known to be a prime location of BPO’s, thousands of call center agents travel to and from this central business district at night.

The risk to agents is very real.

Know the Law!

First of all, the “Anti Vagrancy Law” was repealed years ago, but then, you can still get in hot water with some other offenses. Here are is a list of common municipal/city ordinances that may apply when commuting.

  • Urinating in public (spitting in public is also a rule in some municipalities/cities)
  • Drinking in public places (i.e. along the street, in a public park, in a transport terminal, etc.)
  • Being half-naked (commonly, just wearing shorts)
  • Making loud noises or disturbing the peace
  • Smoking in a non-designated area (almost the whole of Metro Manila already has a strict no smoking ordinance in place)
  • Jaywalking

Penalties may vary from a simple warning for first time offenders, a fine, or 2 weeks to one month of detention, depending on the gravity of the offense.

There are also ordinances that only apply to minors which don’t affect CSR’s, but do note that being “drunk” in public may also be used as justification, so be careful when going home from a drinking session.

But the vaguest and most dangerous power that the police have is to question those who they see as “acting suspiciously” or worse, if they see an “obvious violation” of the law, then they can lawfully detain a person.

Can a CSR Resist an Anti Tambay Arrest?

Yes and no.

When dealing with a police officer in an anti-loitering campaign do three things:

  • Cooperate, answer questions as truthfully as possible. Don’t lie.
  • Be respectful, policemen will most likely see you as someone different from the common folk they deal with if you act respectfully. But most importantly, the police are known to respond in kind when they are treated with aggression.
  • Be calm. The more agitated you are, the more reason the police may suspect something.

The common goal of the police when they ask questions is to determine who you are, and if you are from the area, and what your business is.

If for some reason that you are caught violating an actual rule, for example, jaywalking, ask in a very respectful way if you can just get a warning.

What Can a BPO Worker Do?

Here are a few tips.

  • Always carry identification, preferably a government ID that has a photo. It is also very very important to have your company ID with you as you can use this as proof when you declare that you are a call center agent and you are just headed to work.
  • Be ready with your emergency contacts. If you get detained, inform three persons: a trusted friend, a family member, and your BPO HR contact. You friend will make sure that the news is spread out amongst your other friends, the family member will most likely be the one who will head to the precinct to clear things. Your BPO HR contact on the other hand will not officially help because once you leave the office, you are no longer a responsibility of the company, but, it is in the great interest of your HR that all their agents are safe, especially if you are going to or from work. So please get the contact details of your HR, or at the very least, of your TL or operations manager.
  • Related to your emergency contacts, please make sure that you always have load and that your phone has enough charge. And if you plan to contact people, inform the police of what you are about to do – just say that you will just inform people where you are so that no one gets alarmed.
  • Situational awareness is the secret! When travelling, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking near a group of guys drinking in public. While waiting for the bus, and a guy with no shirt stands beside you, try to slowly move away. Are you already at home from a shift, is it really important to go out again and buy ketchup, to walk out at 3AM to the nearby tindahan or 7-Eleven?

The problem with being a call center agent is that travelling at night is a must, and traveling at night carries a lot of risks, and now, aside from holdups and random violence, we have this: “night idlers” or tambays being rounded up by the thousands, with some, such as Genesis Argoncillo of Novaliches, dying while in detention, in a Quezon City Precinct. In Quezon City which is also home to numerous BPO’s.

If you work for a BPO, please ask your TL or the management for a stand on this issue. A simple email can get the ball rolling.


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Below is a handy infographic from ABS-CBN


Photo of members of Akbayan Youth, by Michael Varcas of the Philippine Star, taken along Kalayaan Avenue, Quezon City