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Dinky’s family camping: Senseless and hypocritical

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Back to the streets Tibigar family. From ABS-CBN.
Back to the streets Tibigar family. From ABS-CBN.


PRESIDENT Aquino has not yet spoken on reports, confirmed by Social Services Secretary Dinky  Soliman, about the government banishing 490 homeless persons to a Batangas resort during the five-day visit of Pope Francis.

But his deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, “Wala naman hong ganoon. Parang insulto din sa bisita kapag sinabi mong ‘pag tinago niyo, hindi na niya malalaman’.Hindi naman natin din tinatago ang estado… Makikita naman ‘yan sa official statistics.”

Insulto talaga.

A journalist friend thinks it was not for Pope Francis that the government removed the destitute from Metro Manila’s streets. It was the foreign press that were coming to cover the Papal visit that they were more concerned about.

The Aquino administration tried to present a lie. Unfortunately for them, the lie was uncovered. Time Magazine, The Guardian and the international wires wrote about it.

Reports said on Jan. 14, the day before Pope Francis arrived, the Department of Social Welfare and Development rounded up almost 500 homeless families including children who live on sidewalks, pushcarts and hammocks tied to trees on the sidewalks of Roxas Boulevard, and brought them to Chateau Royal resort in Batangas.

Reports also said the families were accompanied by 100 DSWD personnel.

ABS-CBN, which interviewed the resort personnel, said the DSWD Papal visit getaway group occupied 70 rooms which they got for a discounted rate of P4,000 per night.

Chateau Royal resortThe day after the group checked in, two big trucks delivered clothes and toiletries, diapers and medicines and toys. One of the “participants” said there was plenty of food .

Soliman explained to Time Magazine, which came out with the article,” Pope Francis and the Mystery of Manila’s Vanishing Street Children,” that the out-of-town activity for the homeless families was not meant to hide them from the Pope but was a “family camping” under her department’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer program.

The CCT, also known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is a massively-funded poverty alleviation program of the Aquino government with loans from World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. In the 2015 budget it has a P62.3 billion allocation.

Soliman said her staff lined up lots of activities for the families during their stay in the resort. She told the London-based The Guardian, “Part of the orientation is to familiarize themselves with a room with a door and toilets.”

She said after the camping, the families will be relocated to rooms or apartments that the government will pay for them from six months to a year. They will be given assistance to find jobs or start their own business.

Soliman told Time Magazine that they brought the homeless families out of Pope Francis’ route in order that they would “not be vulnerable to the influx of people coming to witness the Pope.”

Time Magazine wrote, “ Pressed to clarify, she expressed fears that the destitute ‘could be seen as not having a positive influence in the crowd’ and could be ‘used by people who do not have good intentions.”

I try hard to understand Soliman’s reasoning. Surely, she was not worried that the children would be pinned down by the massive crown that lined up the route of Pope Francis. Those children are citizens of the street. They know their way around.

Street childten.File photo, NPPA from Yahoo
Street childten.File photo, NPPA from Yahoo

Her statements “not having a positive influence in the crowd”’ and could be “‘used by people who do not have good intentions” could have referred to incidents of theft and pickpockets that usually occur in crowded places in Metro Manila.

But those are petty thefts could be avoided by telling the Pope’s welcomers to secure their bags and wallets and to refrain from bringing unnecessary valuables.

That still does not justify the DSWD’s senseless and hypocritical solution to the problem of homelessness in Metro Manila.

ABS-CBN interviewed a couple, Emong and Anne, who joined the Chateau Royal resort “family camping”. They said they were told that the trip was for them to experience how to be rich. They said they were each given a sack of second-hand clothes. They had lectures about illegal drugs and what to do during earthquakes.

They were also promised livelihood.

ABS-CBN said after Pope Francis left, Emong and Anne, along with the others, are back in the streets of Metro Manila.

Writer Rochit Tañedo, in her Facebook, related an incident she witnessed a day after Pope Francis left:”On the jeep from QuezonAvenue/Delta to Commonwealth Litex, a young boy, about 11 thrust an envelope on my lap. Across us, his companion, a disheveled but very pretty girl, with all facial bones in the right places as Tyra Banks would say, kept busy giving an envelope to each passenger. No one was in the mood to give, and the envelopes were promptly returned. A social worker who happened to be on board warned them: ‘I already released you, sabi nyo papasok kayo sa escuela, tapos nandito nanaman kayo. Buti pa, huwag na kayong bumaba at dadalhin ko na lang kayo sa Center!’

“ Hearing that, the girl, apparently already loaded with ‘Vulcaseal’ made a quick quarter turn, thrust her head out the window and with a backward bend, bolted. We all gasped as the jeepney was in motion.

“The boy beside me rushed out of the jeep to join the girl and crossed Commonwealth highway (where Bayani Fernando’s signs still say ‘Nakamamatay’) towards Tandang Sora, oblivious to oncoming traffic.

“The man beside me said: ‘Iyan yung mga batang dapat na nakapunta kay Pope. Ba’t di sila dinala doon? And the elderly across him said: ‘E., paano, yung mga naka-Barong, gusto, sila nang sila!’”

I’m at a loss for words.