In hiding street children for APEC, PH gov't violating rights

When Bahay Tuluyan released its study in 2008, the DSWD responded proactively by introducing new minimum standards for taking children into protective custody.

By closing the Reception and Action Center (RAC) in January 2015 for serious violations of children’s rights, not least of those being against Frederico, they indicated that perhaps they were ready to implement their own standards. (READ: DSWD to shut down facility where Frederico was found)

The actions that have taken place on the streets of Manila this month, including allowing the re-opening of RAC Manila just in time for APEC, have suggested otherwise. Once again, guises of “child protection” are being used to arbitrarily detain children.

While many of the actions taking place on the street in Manila are being directly and strategically carried out by officials of the City of Manila, the national government cannot deny its complicity.

Hundreds of “rescued” street people are being held in the nationally-run Jose Fabella Center in Mandaluyong while personnel of the national MCCT program are actively involved in patrolling the streets. Moreover, surely the national government has responsibility for monitoring the implementation of its own standards?

Taking pride in the Philippines and in Manila is a good thing. Using this pride as a reason to commit mass unlawful arrests is not. Perhaps, it is also time to question our assumptions about foreign visitors and what they think of the Philippines.

Firstly, let’s acknowledge that they also read the papers and see the photos. They are not conned by this cover-up. But secondly, like me, perhaps it is the beautiful resilience and vibrancy of the Philippine people, rich and poor, that attracts them to the Philippines.

Next time the Philippines hosts an international event about inclusive growth, why don’t we take the lead from Australian street artist Kaff-Eine, who has stunningly captured this resilience, in her recent Phoenix project with residences from Happyland in Tondo.

She, and her Filipino collaborators Geloy Concepcion and Geric Cruz, do not see something that shames the country, but see beauty rising from the ashes of some of Manila’s most marginalised (and least visible) communities.

Manila’s street children are complex, unique, beautiful people that deserve the best we can give them – sagip, not huli (save, not catch). –

Catherine Scerri is the Deputy Director of Bahay Tuluyan, an NGO promoting children's rights. To learn more or to participate in this movement, you may contact Bahay Tuluyan at +63 2 254 0213 and