MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte gave the marching orders: Do not hide the street children during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the president wanted other ASEAN leaders to see the country for what it really is.
But the security measures that the government eventually implemented for the international gathering in Manila contradicted its own policy.
“They can easily be infiltrated by people who might want to [sow terror.] For example, a homeless person is pushing a wagon. What if a bomb has been hidden there. How can we prevent that?” Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr, director general for operations of the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council, said in a report.
‘Leave the streets and hide’
Prior to the event, MovePH met vendors and their children on the streets of capital where the summit is being held. According to them, they have been advised to leave the streets as early as October.
“Yung mga vendor po, pinapatago po. Bawal po maghanapbuhay talaga. May mga anak kami. Dito namin kinukuha lahat ng gastos sa pang-araw-araw. Kaya kagaya niyang pinagbabawalan kami ng ganyang katagal, pagbalik namin, panibagong utang kami sa mga 56,” Teresa Basario, a 50-year-old sidewalk vendor from Manila, said.
(They told the vendors to hide. We were not allowed to work. We have children. This is where we get our daily expenses. If we are not allowed to work, we will have to borrow money again.)
Besario said that they were told to steer away from the streets for a week or two if they do not want to be rounded up buy the police. (READ: Schedule of Activities: ASEAN Summit, November 12-14, 2017)
“Yun ang pinoproblema namin itong summit na ‘to kasi malaking bagay ang mawawala sa amin. Katulad ko, dito lang ako naghahanapbuhay. Paano na kami?” Danilo Vargas, a street masseuse along the Manila baywalk, lamented.
(That is our problem with the summit because we are likely to lose a lot. This is our only source of livelihood. What will happen to us?)
Vargas, who has made a living along the baywalk for almost two decades, said that he and other vendors and their children are always relocated every time the country hosts a major international event.
He remembered the time Pope Francis visited the country in 2015. Vargas was one of the hundreds of street dwellers who were brought to Cavite during the Pope’s brief stay.
Vargas said he hopes this does not happen again.
“Sana wag ganun kasi tao kami eh. Hindi naman kami na parang basura na ganun. Parang lilinisin tapos papabayaan uli. Minsan nakakasakit, ‘di ba? Pilipino tayo eh. Dapat kung ano talaga yung totoo. Bilang isang Pilipino, ‘wag tayong parang tinatago o ano,” Vargas said.
(I hope they don’t do that to us again. We should not be treated like trash that’s thrown away. It hurts us. We are Filipinos. They should not be ashamed of the reality.)
The streets leading to ASEAN Summit venues already looked clean shortly before the event started.
Despite the hype about the ASEAN summit, vendors are clueless about how the gathering of world leaders in Manila will benefit them. (READ: ‘P15-B ASEAN summit budget should have gone to the poor’ – Kadamay)
“Sa amin, may ASEAN o wala, hindi naman po sa amin nakakatulong yan. Sa amin yan, wala naman pong pakialam sa amin,” she said. (For us, ASEAN or not, nothing helps us. It does not help vendors and street dwellers like us. They do not care about us.) – with reports from LeAnne Jazul/Rappler.com