DSWD slammed the British tabloid website Daily Mail Online for claiming that street children were being locked up in “brutal detention centers” to keep Manila streets clean for Pope Francis Philippines visit
DSWD Secretary Corazon (Dinky) Soliman slammed the report of the British tabloid Daily Mail which reported that hundreds of children were being picked up by Filipino social workers and put them behind bars to make the Pope’s itinerary more presentable.
“We do not tolerate this practice. We put child abusers in jail,” Sec. Soliman stressed.
“The accusation we’re hiding street children so they can’t be seen by the Pope isn’t true. We actually insisted that they be part of the papal activities,” Sec. Soliman told GMA News.However, she admitted that the DSWD had rounded up the street children through coordination with the local government officials to keep the children off the streets because of the dangers posed to their safety and health.
Sec. Soliman added that a total of 440 children who have been turned over to DSWD will be part of the send-off for Pope Francis on Jan. 19. The children have been rehearsing a song to present to the pontiff for several days, she said.
The Daily Mail showed photos of street kids behind bars, which it claimed were proof that they were indeed being detained at the shelters.
Yet, according to Sec. Soliman, the photos used by the British tabloid website were taken from the previous issue relating to the Manila Reception Action Center (RAC). But the facility is now in the process of being closed.
The malnourished child who apparently lying half-dead on the floor of a shelter, was identified as “Frederico,” she said the child was already transferred to a non-government organization after the news broke out about his maltreatment at the RAC in Manila on October 2014.
“I confirm that some of the photos used in that article were that of RAC but they are pictures from the past,” she said.
“Federico has already gained weight and is being cared for by an NGO with DSWD. We have found his mother and we are currently doing case work management with the mother,” she said.
NO EXACT EVIDENCE
Catherine Scerri, deputy director of street children charity organization Bahay Tuluyan, said the center has no evidence that there has been an intensified campaign to keep street children off the streets for the Pope’s visit.
However, she stood by her statement to the Daily Mail that rescue operations conducted by some local government officials sometimes tend to become more aggressive ahead of visits by foreign dignitaries or very important persons (VIPs), as shown by the center’s research.
“That was the case when President Obama visited the Philippines last year. The national government might not have given the directive, but sometimes their real intention does not trickle down to the grassroots level. The children who were rescued [in the run-up to Obama’s visit] were given the impression they were kept off the streets because of his arrival,” she said.
Francis Bernido, the executive director of Preda Foundation that rescued Mak-Mak, the street kid who had been staying at the House of Hope for weeks, according to the Daily Mail report, like what Catherine Scerri said, there is no accurate evidence to confirm the boy was rescued as part of preparations for the papal visit.
“While it’s highly probable, we don’t have any study to confirm authorities put more children in shelters so they won’t be seen by Pope Francis,” he said.Sources into Reference: GMA Network, ABS-CBN News, GOV.PH