SO it’s being done again and, this time around, nobody seems to be complaining about it. We are referring to the government clearing our streets of street denizens in time for major activities. In the most recent case, it is for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, some of whose meetings are held in Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City.
Government officials call it “rescue” and claim this is being done year-round and not only during big events.
When Pope Francis visited the country in early 2015, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) brought some of the families who were living in the streets in Metro Manila to a resort in Batangas supposedly for an activity that is part of the government’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer program.
Months later, the Manila City Government “rescued” over a hundred street children a week before the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (Apec) Summit held in the Philippines and brought them to a government-run shelter for street children. There they were given medical care and fed for the duration of the summit.
The Cebu City Government used the “rescue” word again when it conducted an operation to clear of street denizens the ceremonial route of the ongoing Asean Summit meetings. A total of 180 individuals were brought to a temporary shelter at the City Abattoir. Again, the Department of Social Welfare and Services claimed “rescue” operations are done year-round and only intensified during the summit.
What is not said is that the move is as artificial as the practice by the police in the past (is it still being done these days?) of hauling people with criminal records to jails or to temporary detention facilities to put up a facade of peace and order for the duration of big events. It also misleads visitors as to the real situation in host areas.
Besides, “rescue” is a misnomer because those who are brought to temporary shelters are not really rescued from the life that forced them to live in the streets. They are not provided with permanent shelter and alternative livelihood that would have freed them from their reliance on the streets to survive.