People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
— The Gospel of Saint Mark, 10:13-16, read in Luneta papal Mass
We hope it isn’t true: the round-up and detention of street children purportedly to keep them from targeting the Holy Father, as reported by The Manila Standard and London’s Daily Mail.
The warrantless arrest and holding of kids is said to be regular practice when top dignitaries visit; it was said to have been done not just for the visit of Pope Francis, who would have been appalled by the action, but also for US President Barack Obama’s trip last April, and even as far back as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 1996, which will again be held in the Philippines come November.
Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman denied the report, and said that DSWD even presented a group of more than 400 rescued street children to the visiting Pontiff. She also took issue with the reported statement of Pasay City Social Welfare head Rosalinda Orobia, who justified the round-up supposedly to protect the Pope from begging syndicates: “They know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that.”
Since there will be no independent official investigation of the reported arrest, Soliman’s denial would probably be the last word on the matter, just like her rebuttals against Commission on Audit reports on allegedly rotting Yolanda relief goods and irregularities in the P40-billion-a-year conditional cash transfer monthly stipends for poor households.
Still, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), meeting in plenary session this week, may wish to undertake its own probe. For if there is truth in the disturbing report, there needs to be unequivocal and strong condemnation of this uncharitable and deceptive practice.
The CBCP inquiry would be one good way to project what the bishops’ Year of the Poor means: that the nation must face and address the reality of widespread poverty through acts of compassion, solidarity and development for the disadvantaged, rather than concealing destitution and other public-relations gimmicks.
A clear moral position condemning the round-up of street children during events attracting global coverage, is particularly crucial at this time, since there could be plans to clear the streets of unsightly deprivation for the November APEC summit. If that happens, then we clearly missed Pope Francis’s message of mercy and compassion.
Binay leads another survey
Back in late November, an ill-conceived Social Weather Stations survey asked randomly selected citizens which three politicians were likely to succeed President Benigno Aquino 3rd, as if voters could tick three presidential candidates in the ballot. The wrongheaded poll seemed contrived to lift presumed Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas into No. 3 spot behind longtime frontrunner Vice-President Jejomar Binay and fast-rising Senator Grace Poe.
Yesterday came results of a more conventional and sensible survey of voter preferences, conducted by pollster Laylo Research Strategies. Asked for just one presidential candidate they would vote for, the 1,200 respondents nationwide consistently placed Binay on top
He led all combinations of candidates posited in the survey, from a field of ten, and a more likely four-way contest among Binay, Poe, Roxas and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago; to a race pitting the VP against Poe, Roxas, or both.
The VP got nods from 32-45 percent of respondents. The closest margin was nine percentage points in an unlikely two-candidate face off between him and Poe.
Notably, though, Binay’s share topped out at 45 in a one-on-one match with Roxas.
That suggests a significant majority block of voters up for grabs by Binay opponents.
One candidate combination that should have been polled, but wasn’t, is a three- or four-way contest not including Poe, who had said she was not keen to run for president due to her lack of governance experience. With the No. 2 candidate out of the picture, Santiago, who ranked a strong No. 3 in every combination she figured in, could very well give Binay a run for the money.
But before we get all caught up in presidentiable speculation, let us again remember the most important election issue which should occupy the citizenry: the automated election system and the Commission on Elections repeated and unrepentant disregard of indispensable and legally mandated safeguards.
These measures include digital signatures needed to ensure that only results from authorized counting machines are tabulated, and the absolutely essential review of the source code, which dictates the way votes are counted by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) computers.
When the Comelec dispensed with digital signatures, it was the equivalent of accepting any election tally, even those scribbled on toilet paper or table napkins.
And by releasing the source code just two weeks before polls, far too late for substantive review, there was no way to prevent the use of misprogrammed codes which counted votes differently from those cast by voters.
A repeat of that illegal and anomalous scenario looms with the repeat award to Smartmatic of the election system maintenance and operating contract.
The Catholic Church and other guardians of integrity must tell our people about this threat to our democracy. And the Supreme Court must signal the unlawfulness of casting aside basic electronic safeguards by ruling the 2010 elections invalid for failing to implement those legally mandated measures, even as elected leaders are allowed to stay in office.
Stop 2016 PCOS fraud now!