Massive roundup of Cebu city mendicants comes ahead of APEC
OFF THE STREETS
Beggars, vagrants and night dwellers in the streets of Cebu City will be rounded up by the city government starting Aug. 14.
The roundup which starts at 10 p.m. will be done a week ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings scheduled in the city.
“This is not just for the duration of APEC. This is a year-round activity of the anti-mendicancy board. We have rescue operations every day. It’s just that on August 14, there will be a synchronized rescue operation,” said Jocelyn Pesquera, chairperson of the Cebu City Anti-Mendicancy Board.
This is one of the activities of the board as they celebrate Anti-Mendicancy Month in August, she said.
City Hall departments, barangay officials and police personnel will take part in the roundup.
Based on city records, there are 200 mendicants and street dwellers all over the city, which is lower than the more 400 street vagrants in 2013, she said.
Those who will be rounded up on Aug. 14 will be taken to the sports complex of barangay San Roque as a temporary staging area.
“There, they will be processed. We will look into their cases and check because some of them have houses and just sleep on the streets. Some of them even have jobs,” Pesquera said.
Those who have homes will be taken back to their families.
Cebu will host over 3,000 delegates for the APEC third senior officials’ meeting and related session from August 22 to September 6.
Other meetings on finance, structure reforms, transportation and energy will also be held here from September 7 to October 14 with 90 to 700 participants.
Of the five venues for the meetings, four are in Cebu City — Marco Polo Plaza, the Marriott, Waterfront Hotel and Casino and Radisson Blu.
Pesquera said the Aug. 14 operation is not for APEC alone.
“Some people think that the mendicancy board is working once a month only. But in reality, we’re working the whole year round. Every day, we do interventions for the beneficiaries and our less fortunate brothers and sisters,” she said.
Many of the street dwellers are from the provinces.
Pesquera said that under the “Balik Probinsya” program of City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), they will be given bus or boat tickets back to their hometowns.
Others, like senior citizens who don’t have a place to go can be referred to partner non-government organizations (NGOs) with housing facilities like the Gasa sa Gugma run by the Daughters of Charity nuns of Mother Teresa.
For homeless and orphaned children, she said they can be brought to the Community Scouts center and the Parian Drop-in Center.
Pesquera clarified that the round-up is done every quarter after Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama formed the Task Force for Better Life last December.
The task force rounds up night dwellers in the city which usually rise in number during the Christmas season.
Last April 6, the death of 11-year-old beggar Chastity Mirabiles eventually led to the filing of murder charges against two personnel of the Fuente police station and their commander Chief Insp. Wildemar Tiu.
Chastity was picked up by police during a dawn roundup on Easter Sunday, and was allegedly kicked hard in the chest. She and another street child were detained for several hours then released but Chastity collapsed and died near Fuente Osmeña.
City social welfare workers surfaced Chastity’s death, calling it a case of police brutality, and noted violations in protocol in handling minors in conflict with the law.
After the child’s case was publicized and brought before the Police Coordinating and Advisory Council , the Fuente station was reshuffled and police officials pledged anew to always have a social welfare worker present when they round up streetchildren and turn over the minors.
Pesquera said the anti-mendicancy board was not involved in Chastity’s case right now although their office had rescued Chastity and her mother before from the streets.
In rounding up street children, Pesquera said the police are supposed to coordinate with the board and the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS).
The CCAMB launched anti-mendicancy month yesterday morning with an exhibit at the lobby of City Hall’s legislative building.
A medical and dental mission for mendicants is set on August 10-11. A registration for Badjaos in the city will also be conducted to their biometrics data and records are available in the city government.
On August 28, the board will recognize establishments, individuals and barangays who’ve been supporting the city’s program against mendicancy.
Cebu City Ordinance No. 1631 mandates the CCAMB to apprehend mendicants and prevent them from asking alms on the streets.
It also punishes those who give alms to street beggars. Violators have to pay a P1,000 fine or do community service.
Pesquera said based on psychological profiles, most of the mendicants turn to the streets due to laziness.
“Some are even college graduates. Why? Because they don’t have to work. They just sit in parks and nice places they beg for money,” she said.
She said the city is coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for intervention programs similar to the 4Ps or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program.
DSWD even has a program that would give mendicants six months worth of rent so they won’t have to sleep in the streets.
They can earn a minimum wage in cash-for-work programs.
Some can be trained to help man street traffic, or become barangay environment officers and market officers, she said.
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