CEBU Archbishop Jose Palma is not in favor of the Cebu City Government’s plan to remove street dwellers during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).
Palma told reporters yesterday that they plan to meet with City Hall officials again to clarify their stand on the matter.
The 64-year-old prelate said the move will attract controversy and is contrary to their belief that the church should be one with the poor.
Also, he said, street dwellers are part of the host country and should not be taken for granted.
Palma said they formed a committee for the IEC that will create programs that will address programs for the poor. The committee is headed by Fr. Carmelo Diola.
Part of reality
“We should not treat them as though they are an eyesore. We believe that they are part of the reality of life, especially for us. It just depends on how we manage them,” Palma said.
In an earlier interview, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo said he believes there is a better option than forcibly removing street dwellers during the IEC next year.
Villarojo, 51st IEC local organizing committee secretary general, added that they want to avoid a similar scenario that occurred during Pope Francis’s visit to the country last January.
To prepare for the Pope’s visit, personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development started rounding up street dwellers in Metro Manila.
But Dr. Ester Concha, Cebu City Department Social Welfare Service head, said they just want to ensure the safety of both street dwellers and delegates of the IEC.
Concha said they will conduct (round-up) operations in areas where the IEC will have activities.
They will also remove street dwellers in time for the Sinulog Festival on the third Sunday of next month.
In a related development, Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, Police Regional Office 7 acting director, urged civilians to help police protect IEC delegates.
Gaerlan said families who are hosting IEC participants should be wary of their guests’ security.
Police, he said, will also do their part.
“Mas maganda (It’s great) if you have visitors, ikaw mismo ang nagpoprotekta sa kanila (you yourself will protect them),” Gaerlan told reporters yesterday.
Securing the list
However, he said they have yet to get the names and addresses of the hosts.
Once they have the list, police can map out their security measures, Gaerlan said.
“From time to time, we can check on them and conduct patrols,” he said. “If there are watchful eyes, many persons will report to us.”
IEC organizers expect 12,000 to 15,000 local and foreign delegates to attend the gathering of Catholic leaders on Jan. 24-31.
Malacañang also had formed an ad hoc task group to maintain peace and order during the Sinulog and the IEC.
Last November, a construction firm turned over a facility at the San Carlos Seminary in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City, where most of the IEC-related activities will be held.
The IEC Pavilion, which was built for more than P500 million, can accommodate about 15,000 people.
The Pavilion’s plenary hall has a seating capacity of around 7,000 to 9,000 people, while its gallery can accommodate 3,000 to 5,000 people.