Al Jazeera features in its ‘People and Power’ programme the video clip Begging for Life, a look into the lives of street children who make a living begging on the streets of Manila. The video is noteworthy because it captured eyewitness accounts of the roundup of street urchins conducted by the Philippine government in and around the vicinity of the routes to be taken by motorcades transporting delegates of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum held in Manila in 2015.
Included in the video is an interview of Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman, Secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) who insists that the fuss kicked up around this large-scale roundup of street beggars during the APEC Summit (which was also criticised by Human Rights Watch) was all “media hype”. Soliman admitted, however, that the level of coordination and collaboration involved in such government operations is “fired up” during international events like these when there are foreign dignitaries visiting.
Al Jazeera correspondent Barnaby Phillips pressed Soliman on the notion of a stepped-up effort to “clean up” Manila’s streets mounted selectively. Phillips opined that the presence of US President Barrack Obama (who led the US APEC delegation) should, perhaps, not be the main impetus for such operations and that the Philippine government should be, as a matter of routine, “looking after its own people”. To this, Soliman merely highlighted that the DSWD has routine programmes in place doing just that.
The video used lots of footage that, together, served to highlight the stark contrasts in Manila — a city that is a modern cosmopolitan metropolis and, at the same time, a teeming Third World megalopolis whose most needy residents are largely invisible to those who are in the best position to change things for the better overall.