MANILA - The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Wednesday acknowledged that poverty is one of the main reasons why children dwell on the streets.
This in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's order for government agencies to round up minors found loitering on the streets.
His new directive followed an earlier instruction for police to clear streets of loiterers, saying they were "potential trouble." Over 8,000 people have since been arrested or accosted, with police enforcing local ordinances against loitering.
Acting Social Welfare Secretary Virginia Orogo said many children find a second home on the streets due to the environment in their respective homes, while some do not have homes or families at all.
“Sa ngayon iyan ang isa sa nakita natin na paulit-ulit, ang bata [na bumabalik sa kalye], kapag kinuha namin. Dahil syempre mga bata ‘yan eh mas gusto sa kalye at free sila na gumalaw. Ang ginagawa natin kinakausap natin ang mga magulang, at inaalam bakit ang batang ito ay pabalik-balik sa kalsada,” Orogo said in a Palace press briefing.
(What we see is that some children go back to the streets after being placed in our custody. Maybe it’s because they are children and they find more freedom on the streets. What we do is we talk to their parents and find out why these children go back to the streets.)
The DSWD regularly undertakes rescue operations to take custody of children living on the streets.
“Iba-iba ang nagiging resulta ng pag-aaral. Puwedeng ang magulang ay hindi ayos ang relasyon, puwedeng dahil sa kabuhayan at kahirapan, ang bata mismo ang naghahanapbuhay para sa kanilang mga magulang, dahil may sakit.”
(Results of studies vary. Sometimes the children go out of the house because their parents are not in good terms. Sometimes it’s because of poverty. They have to find find work because their parents are sick.)
In ordering authorities to round up minors on the streets during ungodly hours, Duterte cited the goverment’s role as the “parent of the country.”
“Below 18, you arrest the teenagers there around loitering, because we have to protect our children, nagkalat na ang droga, nagkalat na ang lahat (drugs and others are everywhere),” Duterte said in his speech during the oath-taking of newly elected Northern Mindanao barangay captains in Cagayan de Oro earlier this week.
“You take them into custody not to arrest them, but for their own safety, to protect them…They are not being arrested for any crime, arrest them for their good… ‘Uwi kayong lahat.’ (Go home, all of you). We can take custody of minors to protect them.”
The President also made it clear that “minors are taken into custody but are not arrested… brought to a safe place for the night for their protection,” fed, and then released the next morning.
Duterte said he ordered the crackdown against loiterers to spare the country from “perdition.”
Critics have labeled Duterte’s crackdown on loiterers as anti-poor, and a wrong way of addressing criminality. They said the government must first solve homelessness and unemployment before targeting those loitering on the streets.
Orogo said the department is now looking at creating a program where street dwellers would be housed in designated shelters in every barangay.