Street Kids In The Philippines Were Caged So That The Pope Wouldn't See Them. Really?

An investigative report exposed what happened to street kids in an effort to keep the streets "clean" ahead of Pope Francis visit to Manila.

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Recently the DailyMail, a tabloid newspaper based in the UK published an exclusive report on how street kids in the Phillippines were locked up to keep the streets clean when the Pope was about to visit

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The investigation team revealed that children as young as five were rounded up in detention centres in Manila

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Street children as young as five are being caged in brutal detention centres alongside adult criminals in a cynical drive to smarten up the Philippines capital ahead of a visit by Pope Francis this week. Hundreds of boys and girls have been rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police and officials and put behind bars in recent weeks to make the poverty-racked city more presentable when Pope Francis arrives tomorrow, a MailOnline investigation has found.

Street children as young as 5 are being rounded up in the streets of Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, ahead of the five-day visit of Pope Francis to the country. The children are being herded into the city’s notorious detention centers under appalling conditions as part of effort to “clean up” the streets ahead of the pontiff’s arrival on January 15.
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In recent weeks, hundreds of children have been rounded up from shop door-ways and roadsides by police and officials and put behind bars to make the city more presentable during Pope Francis' five-day visit, which began on Thursday. In a blatant violation of the country's child-protection laws, the terrified youngsters are locked up in filthy detention centres, where they sleep on concrete floors and where many are beaten or abused by older or adult prisoners and, in some cases, starved.

However, it was revealed that the conditions of the detention centres were bad, with children being kept behind bars and eating leftovers on the floor

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There, guiltless children are kept behind bars, made to go to the toilet in buckets and fed leftovers which they eat from the floor. There is no schooling or entertainment for the youngsters who are held sometimes for months before being freed. Adult convicts are kept in a pen next to separate compounds holding boys and girls and freely pass between the pens at certain times of the day, inmates and regular visitors to the centre told us, while officials either ignore or fail to spot abuse and attacks.

According to the MailOnline, they “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.”

Children are being locked up in filthy detention centers, where they are forced to sleep on cold concrete floors and chained to pillars if they try to escape. They are being starved as well as physically and sexually abused by older children and adult prisoners.

Rosalinda Orobia, the head of Social Welfare Department highlighted that this was being done to stop begging syndicates from targeting the Pope. "They know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that".

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Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila's central Pasay district, confirmed her officials had for weeks been detaining street children in the areas the Pope will visit and had taken in children as young as five. Bizarrely, she claimed the operations were aimed at stopping begging syndicates targeting the Pope rather than tidying up the city. 'They (the syndicates) know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that,' she told the Manila Standard newspaper. In an editorial, the newspaper slammed the official's remarks, saying: 'We should all be scandalized by the government's artificial campaign to keep the streets free of poor children only for the duration of the papal visit.

This has led to criticism from various quarters, saying that abuse and the terrible conditions in the centres should not happen. Besides that, there are no plans to keep the kids in schools thus allowing the child to go back out on the streets again.

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In a commentary, the newspaper slammed the campaign, saying, "We all understand the natural tendency to put one's best foot forward when guests come calling, but hiding away poor street children completely misses the point of the pope's apostolic exhortation to hear the cry of the poor. "We should all be scandalised by the government's artificial campaign to keep the streets free of poor children only for the duration of the papal visit, with no cogent plan to keep them in schools or their homes, where they belong, and to instil discipline among their parents, who should know better."

"There is no reason the shelters should be like this and what I find soul-destroying is the apathy of the people who work in and around places like the RAC [the notorious Manila Reception and Action Centre] and allow this brutality," says Scerri. "I can understand a lack of resources, but what I find so frustrating is the violence, torture and apathy, and the fact that people are standing by and letting this happen. I think that is completely inexcusable.

Locking up street kids before a major event in Manila isn't something new according to Catherine Scerri, the deputy director of a street children charity

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The practice of locking up street children ahead of major international events in Manila dates back to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders' Summit of 1996, says Catherine Scerri, deputy director of street children charity Bahay Tuluyan.

"There has been a pattern of this happening before big international events. It happened before [United States President Barack] Obama's visit to the Philippines in April last year," says the Australian, who has worked for 11 years to improve the lives of Manila's legions of street children. "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."

A survey of street children by Bahay Tuluyan has found that the so-called rescues 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 - rather than "rescued" - exposed to abuse.

However, the government has denied any reports that they have caged street kids to keep the areas "clean" for the Pope

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Philippine officials on Thursday, January 15, denied a report saying street children were being caged “to keep the streets clean” for Pope Francis, who is set to arrive in the country Thursday afternoon, January 15. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said no reports on the “caging” of street children have reached the police. Roxas is also chairman of the National Police Commission, which oversees the Philippine National Police.

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman also denied the Daily Mail report, saying the government does not “cage” homeless children. “We are not hiding the children. More than 400 street children will be singing during the send-off for Pope Francis on Monday. They have been practicing since December. The Pope will see and interact with them,” she told reporters yesterday.

Instead, some of the street kids got to meet Pope Francis in a private session where he spent a few minutes interacting with the kids

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Street children met privately with Pope Francis minutes after he celebrated Mass at the Manila Cathedral on Friday, January 16. The Pope, accompanied by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, met privately with the kids at the Tulay ng Kabataan organization, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said.
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Spadaro's photos showed the children hugging and meeting Francis. One photo also showed Tagle and the Pope speaking to the children.

The Filipino government will investigate the claims and have asked the public to come forward with information

Still, Roxas said government would “check” the report, asking the public to provide specifics. “There are so many things authorities are looking after. Certainly, hindi ito kabahagi ng plano ng gobyerno pero kung meron man, even if wala si Pope, labag sa batas yan (This is definitely not part of the government’s plan but if this did happen, even without the Pope, it’s against the law),” he added.

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