Authorities stop homeless feeding, care program in Manila amid Luzon lockdown

Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2020 06:28 PM | Updated as of Mar 19 2020 07:39 PM

MANILA - Police and barangay authorities stopped a feeding and care program for the homeless at a Catholic shelter in Manila Thursday morning, saying it violated social distancing rules under the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Fr. Flavie Villanueva, who heads the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center in Barangay 344, Sta. Cruz, Manila, said authorities dispersed some 100 homeless persons lined up outside the center for free meals, a shower, water, a pack of vitamins and a face mask.

This even as they observed social distancing measures, he said.

"We were very conscious of the ECQ (quarantine) guidelines. Those allowed inside the center were only 12 to 15, those in line were at least 1.5 meters apart, they were told to bathe fast, take vitamins, get their water, an orange, face mask, take their food and leave," Villanueva told ABS-CBN News.

He asserted there was "no mass gathering"- a coming together of multiple people which government currently prohibits under the month-long quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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Authorities stop homeless feeding, care program in Manila amid Luzon lockdown 2
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Social distancing measures were observed at the homeless feeding and care program at the Kalinga Center in Manila on March 19, 2020, said Fr. Flavie Villanueva. Photos from Fr. Flavie Villanueva

Social distancing measures were observed at the homeless feeding and care program at the Kalinga Center in Manila on March 19, 2020, said Fr. Flavie Villanueva. Photos from Fr. Flavie Villanueva

Social distancing measures were observed at the homeless feeding and care program at the Kalinga Center in Manila on March 19, 2020, said Fr. Flavie Villanueva. Photos from Fr. Flavie Villanueva

Social distancing measures were observed at the homeless feeding and care program at the Kalinga Center in Manila on March 19, 2020, said Fr. Flavie Villanueva. Photos from Fr. Flavie Villanueva

Social distancing measures were observed at the homeless feeding and care program at the Kalinga Center in Manila on March 19, 2020, said Fr. Flavie Villanueva. Photos from Fr. Flavie Villanueva

Social distancing measures were observed at the homeless feeding and care program at the Kalinga Center in Manila on March 19, 2020, said Fr. Flavie Villanueva. Photos from Fr. Flavie Villanueva

But police said they got a request for assistance from barangay officials who said social distancing rules were violated at the feeding initiative.

Manila Police Blumentritt Station desk officer Police Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Concepcion, who dispatched officers to respond to the request around 10:15 a.m., said the matter was resolved in an orderly manner.

"Mayroon nga pong social distancing rules, nung hindi na po nasusunod 'yung social distancing, nagkakagulo na po 'yung tao, in advise sila na much better na may distansya," he told ABS-CBN News in a phone call.

(There are social distancing rules and when that was no longer being followed, it was getting disorderly, they were advised that it was much better if there was distance.)

"Kaya po 'yung mga pulis natin 'yun ang mandato natin na tumulong sa kababayan para hindi mag-spread 'yung virus," he said.

(It is the mandate of our police to help the people so that the virus won't spread.)

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Video from Fr. Flavie Villanueve, Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center

NO OPTIONS FOR THE HOMELESS

Villanueva lamented the incident, saying the homeless have no options amid a lockdown where people are asked to stay in their homes.

"I told them 'give me an alternative for this, I will stop this.' And even if there is an alternative, can you accommodate them and do what I'm doing?" said Villanueva, who has been operating the center since July 2016.

He said he is not sure where the dispersed homeless persons went.

"If they are not clean, they would be susceptible to the disease. If they are not fed, all the more they feel weak, and there might even be the first case of a homeless dying," he said.

"We have this crisis, a virus, but we could have virtues over virus, we have to show compassion instead of criticisms or add to the crisis. We have to be sources of hope instead of bringing hell to this people," he said.