MANILA - The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) slammed an online news report claiming that street children are being caged to clear the streets for Pope Francis’ visit.
“We do not tolerate this practice. We put child abusers in jail,” Secretary Dinky Soliman said, as she vehemently denied the Daily Mail report.
The story, which made the rounds on social media as early as Wednesday, alleged “street children as young as five are being caged in brutal detention centres alongside adult criminals in a cynical drive to smarten up the Philippines capital ahead of a visit by Pope Francis this week.”
Soliman said the photos used in the story were from a previous issue relating to the Manila Reception Action Center. She said the facility is now in the process of being closed.
One photo was of a malnourished “Federico,” she said.
“Federico has already gained weight and is being cared for by an NGO with DSWD. We have found his mother and we are currently doing case work management with the mother,” she said.
She said street children and abandoned children will, in fact, take a vital role in the papal visit.
“We are not hiding the children. In fact, more than 400 street children will be singing during the send-off for Pope Francis on Monday. They have been practicing since December. The Pope will see and interact with them,” she said.
She said the children are beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Program for Street Children, which offers a package of services, including education and livelihood packages for their parents.