IS the government hiding the truth?
Hundreds of street dwellers were taken to a facility for street children in Marikina City where they will stay during the duration of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit.
Jean Ramos, Chief of the Division of Institutions Manila Boystown, said 24 homeless families or 205 individuals were brought to their facility as part of the Manila City government’s effort to weed out street dwellers.
“Even before the APEC, the city’s social welfare department is already doing this [to make zero visibility of street dwellers in Manila],” she explained.
She added that only street dwellers from Manila are in Boystown. Those coming from other cities in Metro Manila were taken to the Department of Social Welfare and Development –National Capital Region (DSWD-NCR) in Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, Manila.
Boystown is an institution under the Manila Social Welfare Department.
Ramos said that aside from the 24 families, 121 minors begging for alms were turned over to them by the city government.
The 205 street dwellers received free skills training and lecture from social workers.
Joan Ty, 41, a sidewalk vendor at C.M. Recto in Manila, said they did not resist when authorities forcefully brought them to Boystown.
“Nakita po kami sa bangketa lahat po ng tambay sa labas sa may bangketa hinuhuli gawa nga raw po ng APEC. Hindi po namin alam nung una kung bakit po kami hinuhuli pero nung dinala na po kami doon sa Youth Center doon lang namin nalaman na dahil pala sa APEC (They saw us on the sidewalk and they arrested us because of APEC. At first we did not know why we were accosted, but when we reached the Youth Center it was there where we learned that it was because of APEC),” Ty, told The Manila Times.
She said there is no clear word from the government if they will be given assistance once they were released after the APEC meet.
Sheila Gonzales, 37, who sells fruits at Roxas Boulevard in Manila, said she and her children were arrested and forcefully taken to Boystown while they were about to go home on Sunday.
Gonzales, a native of Davao City, said she planned to escape along with her children because she cannot bear the difficulties inside the facility.
“It’s difficult here. We are planning to escape, others have escaped by jumping over the fence. Maybe people will not consider escaping if the food is not bad. They feed us half-cooked rice and sardines mixed with noodles,” she said.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada visited the street dwellers on Tuesday and distributed candies to the children.
Estrada admitted that he ordered the clearing of street dwellers in Manila so that the country would not be embarrassed before visiting foreign leaders.
“This is our country. Kailangan nating ingatan ang image ng ating bansa (We have to protect its image),” the mayor added.