MANILA - Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said he is not "flustered" by reports that Malacañang tried to hide street dwellers of Manila from Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines two weeks ago.
Tagle said the Catholic Church made sure that the Holy Father had a genuine encounter with the poor, which was the declared focus of his visit.
"Di ba sabi naman ng Malacanang na open sila imbestigahan? So hintayin natin ang resulta. Pero sa akin naman, kung tinago man o hindi nakatagpo naman talaga si Pope ng mga street children sa pagbisita niya," he said.
Tagle gave the keynote speech at the annual membership meeting of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) held at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel on Tuesday.
In his message, Tagle called on business to ensure "inclusive growth" and social development by reaching out to the margins of society and having a personal encounter with the poor.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman earlier revealed 490 beggars and homeless people were taken to air-conditioned log cabins at a resort near Manila for the January 15-19 visit.
Soliman said the street people, many of whom live in shanties and hammocks tied to palm trees along the Manila Bay seafront, were removed from the capital's Roxas Boulevard before the visit.
She said the homeless would have been "vulnerable to syndicates and discriminated (against) a lot" had they stayed in the area.
"You cannot hide poverty. When the pope landed, the first thing he saw was the shanties by the river," she told AFP.
She also said they had received training as part of a government scheme launched last year to provide 11,000 homeless families with rent-free accommodation for up to a year a year. So far, the program has helped 2,000.
"Part of the orientation is to familiarize themselves with a room with a door and toilets," Soliman said.
Malacañang also said there was no intention to hide street families from Pope Francis when the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) brought them to a resort during the papal visit.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this was not the first time that the program was implemented. She, however, deferred to the agency for the program's details.
Valte also pointed out that the agency has an ongoing program, "Save Street Kids," that asks citizens to inform the DSWD of street families' whereabouts for appropriate action. With Agence France-Presse