Palace defends sending street kids to resort
MANILA, Philippines – Following the controversy of the government taking street children and their families to a resort during the days Pope Francis visited the country, Malacañang came to the defense of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD).
The Palace said it was done not to hide the poor from the pontiff, but as part of a program to help them.
On Friday, January 23, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the trip to the resort is part of “a normal project for [DSWD],” echoing DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman’s statement that it is part of their registration as modified conditional cash transfer (MCCT) beneficiaries.
“The way Secretary Soliman explained it, it is one way to help them. Because like the other batches for which they did the same program two years ago, they were evaluated through this program to see if they are qualified to join as modified CCT beneficiaries,” she said.
Those without permanent addresses are qualified to become modified CCT beneficiaries, and could receive housing assistance and skills training. Valte said past groups that underwent the program “are no longer sleeping in the streets.”
Asked whether it was necessary though to bring them to resorts for 5 days just for evaluation, and if the Palace thought it was a prudent way to spend government funds, Valte deferred to Soliman to answer the question.
Valte emphasized, however, that the intention was not to hide the street children from the Pope.
“We don’t isolate the program of the DSWD as limited to ‘They were removed for the street because there’s an incoming guest.’ We don’t work under that frame. We don’t proceed on that assumption. What we are looking at is what became the benefit of the program. Again, it’s not the first time that this program has been implemented,” she said.
She added, “We don’t make it a point to lie about these things also because you see that one of the administration’s biggest program is poverty alleviation.”
In an earlier report, Rappler revealed that the street families stayed in Chateau Royale Sports and Country Club from January 14 and left on January 19, as organized by DSWD. It was pointed out, however, that past trips were usually announced well in advance. This trip, which coincided with the Pope’s visit, was announced just two days prior.
Soliman has insisted there was no intention to hide the children from the Pope, but admitted they were taken away during the days of the papal visit for their safety, given the crowds that were expected to flock to the streets. – Rappler.com