We’re ‘Rescuing’, Not Hiding, Street Dwellers

By Mico Agustin

There is no special retreat, or hiding of street dwellers in preparation of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November 13-17 in Metro Manila.

Rather, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) called it “rescuing”, as part of its preparation in the upcoming summit.

In an interview recently, MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago said the agency, in cooperation with the DSWD, has been rescuing youths in the street for the summit, claiming that they have been doing this even without any special occasion or event.

"Kahit po nung wala pang ASEAN Summit talaga hong nagre-rescue na tayo ng mga kabataan diyan sa lansangan," Pialago said. "Pero, with all fairness, yes po, kasama po yun sa preparation po ng ASEAN natin, in cooperation and participation and with help po ng DSWD," she added. (Even before the ASEAN Summit, we had been doing this with streetchildren and dwellers.)


Returned To Parents

The rescued children are being taken by the DSWD to return to their parents, putting in the orphanages, or for residency in their shelters, said Pialago.

The said move, too, was implemented by then Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman who was also criticized for allegedly "hiding" homeless families in a resort in Batangas the day before Pope Francis arrived in the country for a Papal visit.

Later that year, the DSWD was again criticized for the same reason. This time was in anticipation of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting.

Soliman claimed the DSWD has been helping street dwellers well before the international events in question.


Security Measure

Meanwhile, taking homeless people off the streets in time for the ASEAN Summit could also be viewed as a security measure, according to Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director general for operations of the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council recently.

Paynor said that some criminals could use homeless people to propagate terror or sabotage the event.

"If you look at it from the security standpoint, yes, because they can easily be infiltrated by people who might want to... kunwari, there is a homeless na nagtutulak ng kariton, tapos pala may bomba yun. Anong gagawin natin?" he said.

The ASEAN Summit this month will be attended by 21 world leaders, including US President Donald Trump. (With reports from GMA News Online)


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