Secretary Soliman: Street kids not ‘caged’; 400 of them singing for Francis
MANILA, Philippines—The government on Thursday denied that street children in Metro Manila were being rounded up and locked away to “keep the streets clean” during the visit of Pope Francis.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that there was no truth to the report which came out in the Daily Mail Online, a publication in the United Kingdom.
According to the investigative report, the police had been rounding up in recent weeks homeless children in Manila, some of them as young as 5 years old, and throwing them into detention centers along with hardened criminals to keep them out of the Pope’s sight when he arrives in the country.
“It is not true that they are being rounded up. They will be part of the ceremonies for the send-off of the Pontiff as participants,” Lacierda said in a press briefing in Manila on Thursday.
According to the Daily Mail, the children were being kept in filthy detention centers where they sleep on concrete floors. Many of them were being beaten or abused by older inmates and adult prisoners and, in some cases, starved and chained to pillars.
It also mentioned the Reception and Action Center in Manila which was described by a nongovernment organization last year as a concentration camp for children. This was after one of the wards under its care, “Federico,” was captured in a photograph —his emaciated body covered in scabs and bruises and sleeping naked on a concrete floor.
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman also denied the Daily Mail report, saying the government does not “cage” homeless children.
“We are not hiding the children. More than 400 street children will be singing during the send-off for Pope Francis on Monday. They have been practicing since December. The Pope will see and interact with them,” she told reporters yesterday.
Also joining the send-off activity are abandoned children and those being rehabilitated in centers and institutions of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The DSWD pointed out that the photos of children in the Daily Mail Online report, particularly of “Federico,” were old pictures and that changes had been made since in child shelters.
“Corrective measures have been undertaken since the time that the reports came out. Federico has already gained weight and is being cared for by a nongovernment organization with DSWD,” Soliman said.
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