Perhaps then, the Philippine government may be right after all. Perhaps government personnel did not, as what was alleged, round up street kids all over Manila and throw them in little cages. No. According to an ABS-CBN News report, the kids and their families were “guests” in a posh P6,000 peso (USD135) per night resort in Batangas.
Nichie Torres, the resident manager of Chateau Royale, said the street children and their families were treated as guests.Some 100 DSWD staff also stayed at the resort to watch over the guests who occupied a total of 70 rooms.The resident manager admitted their guests appeared unkempt and wore dirty clothes.On January 15, two big trucks delivered toys, clothes, and toiletries.The guests were also kept busy with various activities.The guests occupied the open field and practically used all the facilities, including the ballroom.Resort staff said it resembled a huge “family camp.”The six days were uneventful, except for one instant when two groups figured in what looked like a rumble that was quickly resolved.The group checked out on January 19, the day Pope Francis left.
According to ABS-CBN News, the information leading to this revelation was “a document from the Manila City Hall wherein the DSWD asked for permission to hold the camp”. A TIME magazine feature cited the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman’s claim that 490 people constituting about 100 homeless families living along otherwise scenic Roxas Boulevard “taken off the street” were “taken about an hour and a half’s drive away to the plush Chateau Royal Batangas resort” where room rates “range from $90 to $500 per night.” According to Soliman, the TIME report continues, these homeless people “could be seen as not having a positive influence in the crowd”.
On the question on whether or not ordinary Filipinos really gave a hoot over where these supposedly non-positive fixtures of Manila’s streets during the Pope’s visit went, the TIME report’s author Charlie Campbell opined…
So where did Manila’s street children go? The truth is that most people didn’t really care, just as long as they did.
But what would one call the P6000-per-night cost of the treat Filipino taxpayers extended to these homeless people? Was it an act of charity? Or was it merely a bald bribe?
The trouble with practices like these is the precedent it could set. Already, Metro Manila is being crushed under the weight of a vast squatter infestation. Many of these illegal residents have, in fact, made their homes on public land. Because most of these residents lack access to basic waste management infrastructure, much of the waste they produce ends up in natural and man-made storm drains, many of which are now hopelessly fouled up.
Indeed, squatters have long been an immense socio-economic problem in Metro Manila, contributing to the chronic flooding and perpetual traffic gridlock that Manila’s legal residents suffer year round.
By giving the VIP treatment to a handful of “homeless” people who would have spoiled the pope’s view of Manila’s “famous” harbour, during the now-concluded visit, the wrong message again is sent to the Philippines’ impoverished masses: Victim mentality pays.
[Photo courtesy Philippine Human Rights Information Center.]