MAJORITY of the 154 street dwellers in Cebu City who were rounded up on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, by the City Government with the help of local police are back in their houses.
Only five remain at the halfway house. They are locally stranded individuals who lost their livelihood due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. They will remain there while their papers are being processed so they can go home
Raquel Arce, chief of the Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement team, said the rescued individuals were placed in two halfway houses.
Women and children were taken to the Sta. Rita Cascia Women’s and Children’s Center in Barangay Kasambagan, while the men stayed at the halfway house near Robinsons Galleria Cebu at the North Reclamation Center.
Some rescued individuals came from Leyte, Mindanao and Cebu Province.
City Hall and the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) have made a list of the rescued individuals. If they return to the streets and are caught begging, they risk facing legal persecution.
Based on Presidential Decree (PD) 1563, or the Mendicancy Law of 1978, a mendicant may face a fine not exceeding P500 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both at the discretion of the court.
Section 5 of PD 1563 states that a habitual mendicant may face a fine not exceeding P1,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding four years or both at the discretion of the court.
Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, CCPO deputy director for operations, said most of the street dwellers have houses in the city.
“Those at the vicinity of the Sto. Rosario Church on P. del Rosario St. camp out there so they can avail themselves of the weekly distribution of relief goods,” Parilla said in Cebuano.
The police official urged the church to coordinate with the City Government if it distributes relief goods to street dwellers.
The Archdiocese of Cebu through Cebu Caritas Inc. and the Archdiocese’s Commission on the Laity have been conducting regular feeding to the poor, including homeless families, amid the health crisis.
Cebu Caritas Inc. helped build 14 feeding stations in Sitio Alaska, Barangay Mambaling.
The daily feeding program, which started on June 21, is supported by various religious, civic and business communities to aid unfortunate families badly affected by lockdowns imposed by the government to slow down the spread of the disease in communities.
Fr. Charles Jayme of the Cebu Caritas’ Relief and Rehabilitation Unit said Cebu City’s move to gather street dwellers and ultimately send them back to their hometowns is good. However, he said, it is better if the City can also help them have a sustainable livelihood. (JJL, WBS, AYB)