A Daily Mail report is making waves asserting that the Philippines’ police have mounted an operation to “round up orphans and chain them in filth during pontiff’s visit to Philippines.”
The report cites the testimony of a certain Catherine Scerri, deputy director of street children charity Bahay Tuluyan who says that all this is really routine in Manila and that the practice follows a pattern of “happening before big international events in the past”. According to the Daily Mail, Scerri was said to have “remarked on a noticeable rise in the number of ‘rescues’ of street children by officials in recent weeks because of the Pope’s visit.” Notably, “[these operations] happened before President Obama’s visit to the Philippines in April last year. When we tried to have them released we were told they couldn’t come out until after Obama had gone and the children were very much given the impression that they were rescued because of this visit,” she also said.
The report goes further…
A survey by Bahay Tuluyan found the so-called ‘rescue’ operations to round up street children are indiscriminate, targeting youngsters who have committed no offences and do not want to go to detention centres.
Children are taken in simply for sleeping on the street, for begging, or for stealing food to relieve their hunger, with no proper judicial process, and are exposed to abuse and exploitation by older children and adults, the study found.
While the information in the Daily Mail report comes from various sources, the only part of it that categorically asserts that these “rescue operations” were mounted directly in preparation for Pope Francis’s visit is in this snippet:
MailOnline found dozens of street children locked up in appalling conditions alongside adult criminals in Manila, where a senior official admitted there had been an intensive round-up by police and government workers to make sure they are not seen by Pope Francis.
The “senior official” who supposedly provided this information remains unnamed. The report also exhibits various photos of children held in various detention centres in Manila.
Interestingly enough, Bahay Tuluyan’s Scerri was featured in an Inquirer report published in mid-November, 2014 after she released a photo of a boy named “Federico” who, at the time, was detained in a Manila government facility where he allegedly suffered appalling maltreatment and negligence under the care of workers in that facility. The photo showed the skin-and-bones form of the boy (with face pixelated) prompting the “shocked observers” to liken the place to a “concentration camp”.
The photo was accompanied by a letter signed by Bahay Tuluyan Executive Director Lily Flordelis.
“Many children we have spoken to complained that they were physically abused, assaulted and even tortured by the [Manila Reception and Action Center (RAC)] staff,” Flordelis said.
These incidents largely went unreported to higher authorities, she said. If ever documented in cases where the victim had to undergo a medical examination, the resulting reports were “very superficial” because the examination was done “in the presence of the same officials who had beaten up the child, thereby inhibiting (full) disclosure” of the injuries.
Guantanamo Bay where detained terror suspects were allegedly tortured may be the United States’ shame. But the Philippines’ child “welfare” facilities where street kids are allegedly tortured are its former colony’s even bigger shame!
Small surprise that the Philippines has also long been a haven for child abusers with many “tourists” from North America and Western Europe coming to practice their craft with impunity. It was only in recent years that police have cracked down hard but have targetted mainly sexual abuse over the Internet, thanks mainly to strong pressure from police overseas.
Strangely, Philippine law states that “Every child has the right to a wholesome family life that will provide him with love, care and understanding, guidance and counseling, and moral and material security” and directs the state to provide abandoned children with “the nearest substitute for a home”
This and other ideas are enshrined in the Presidential Decree No. 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code of the Philippines, which also provides strong legal tools that can be applied to the prosecution of child abusers and makes all “hospitals, clinics and other institutions as well as private physicians providing treatment” accountable for reporting suspected cases of abuse and maltreatment to the proper authorities.
Sadly, like all else in the Philippines, how well these laws are enforced leaves much to be desired.
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