MANILA – Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman clarified on Tuesday that the “disappearance” of the street children during the recent five-day visit of Pope Francis was to protect them from discrimination and syndicates.
”I’m not denying that we have coordinated with the local governments which wanted to have an orderly Roxas Boulevard during the papal visit,” Soliman told the Senate inquiry into reports that street children were rounded up during the Pope’s visit.
Soliman explained that the 100 families or 427 individuals living along Roxas Blvd. covering Manila, Pasay and Paranaque areas have been brought to Chateau Royale resort in Nasugbu, Batangas not only to give them a chance to enjoy but to orient them for a chance to be enrolled in the government’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program.
”We used the opportunity for those who wanted to register in the MCCT,” Soliman said.
She added that it was not the first time that they conducted camping project for the street children and their families.
She said the DSWD has already conducted a total of six camping activities in partnership with the 17 LGUs in Metro Manila from 2011 to 2015, benefiting 5,491 individuals, mostly street children.
The DSWD chief clarified that the department did not promise to give apartment if they will only attend the camping activity.
”What we said is join this kind of activity so that they will be given orientation on what is the MCCT. Part of our explanation is to help them bring their children to school, find a job and find a house they will rent,” Soliman explained.
Soliman said the government will shoulder the house rent for six to 12 months of the qualified MCCT beneficiaries.
”I have to admit that it is not an easy job to give protection and assistance to our countrymen living on the streets and usually they are victims of fire and eviction. Some of them were there already for at least three generations,” Soliman said.
She said the DSWD spent a total of PHP4.75 million for the camping activity in Nasugbu from Jan. 14 to 19.
Recently, a website of the British tabloid Daily Mail reported that street children were caged in detention centers alongside adult criminals during the papal visit.
Soliman and other government officials have denied the website report.