• ‘Caged children hidden from Pope’

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    STREET children in Metro Manila are being held in detention centers alongside adult criminals in a cynical drive to clear the metropolis of “human eyesores” while Pope Francis is in the country.

    To make the city more presentable, reports said police and local government officials rounded up hundreds of boys and girls from roadsides and under the bridges. Some of the children reportedly landed in jail.

    A story that appeared at MailOnline claimed that the terrified youngsters are locked up in filthy detention cells where they sleep on concrete floors. Many of them are beaten or abused by older inmates.

    A senior official who admitted that there had been an intensive round up by police and government workers to make sure the urchins are not seen by Pope Francis confirmed this.

    Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Irish missionary Father Shay Cullen, 71, has freed a boy aged seven and took him to his Preda Foundation shelter for children in Subic, Olongapo.

    “I cannot confirm if they are detaining the street children specifically for the Pope’s visit, but other people interviewed have, and it looks like they have intensified in recent days,” Cullen said.

    “The Pope will not see them, they are hidden away, he would be horrified,” he added.

    The boy rescued by Cullen, Mak-Mak, whose legs and body were riddled with scabies, was picked up in early December. He spent Christmas and the New Year in a cell.

    The boy was at first frightened but he seemed pleased when charity workers told him he was being transferred to a children’s home.

    “Are there toys there?” he asked.

    An adult prisoner held with other convicts in a cell directly opposite the pen holding Mak-Mak and the other children, 42-year-old Paulo, said: “Lots of children have been brought here lately. We’re told they’re being picked up from under the road bridges where the Pope will travel.”

    “This boy is only about seven years old and he is behind bars. This is completely beneath human dignity and the rights of all the children here are being violated,” Cullen said.

    No caging
    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) however said there had been no caging of children during Papal visit in the country.

    DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said some 175 street children will be presented to Pope Francis to prove that no caging or jailing had ever happened.

    “These children are not hidden from Pope Francis. In fact they will be presented to Pope Francis. They will be part of the send-off activity on Monday. They will be among the 440 children that will participate in a song and dance presentation in the send-off ceremony for Pope on Monday,” she noted.

    “We do not jail children. We jail abusers,” Soliman added.

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    2 Comments

    1. apolonio reyes on

      Kung tutoo ito, mas grabe pa ito nuon panahon ng martial law na pinababakuran at pinapinturahan lamang ni Imelda ang mga pangit na itsura ng mga bahay ng mga illegal dwellers na madadaanan ng mga importanteng bisita gaya ni Popr Paul VI, Pope John Paul II at ng World Bank officials pero walang kinukulong na mga pulubi at street children. Dapat pa imbestigahan ito ng Senado, Di ba Bayan?

    2. DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, whose department is charged with looking after the welfare of street children, denied reports that street children had been rounded up and caged. Yet there are reports that hundreds of streets kids were rounded up and sent to detention centers, in an effort by city governments to make the streets of Metro Manila look more presentable during the papal visit. These kids were thrown in packed jails next to criminals, and made to sleep on bare cement floors with no mattress at all, and made to live in sub-human conditions.

      Soliman is not just an incompetent administrator but an inveterate liar too. Hundreds of kids may have been rounded up, but there are more out there in the streets. There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 children beggars living-off the streets of Metro Manila who would not be if DSWD has been doing its job of looking after these unfortunate little children in the first place.

      Jesus Christ has a warning to Soliman and similar-minded people like her who treat children shabbily. Christ said that if anyone makes any of these children to stumble, “it will be better for him that a huge millstone be hung on his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea”.