Beggar, Street Children Rounded Up In ZamboangaJuly 9, 2006 at 5:30 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Some street children in downtown Zamboanga City. (Zamboanga Journal)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 09 Jul) Dozens of street children and beggars were rounded up in downtown Zamboanga City over the weekend in an effort to curb the growing number of mendicants, largely blamed for petty crimes.
At least 53, mostly children, were taken into custody since the crackdown started Friday, according to a police report. The children were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).“The campaign to rid off vagrancy in the city streets has been going on for many years already, but these children continue to come back,” Insp. Esperanza Santiago, chief of the Women and Children Protection Unit of the local police force, told reporters.
Police said the street children are likely to be future criminals if this situation continues. Many street children were hooked into illegal drugs and some had resorted to robbery and snatching to sustain their vices.
“That’s not true, maybe some are into drugs, but not all of us are like that,” said Orlando Santiago, 12, a beggar. “We are forced into this kind of life because of poverty. We don’t even have food on the table and my parents have no jobs. People should understand our predicament and not readily condemn us,” he told the Zamboanga Journal.
Other street children here have stories similar to that of Orlando Santiago, and they collectively blame the lack of opportunity for a decent living or government job program addressing the poor.Local politicians call these street children and beggars an eyesore that lends Zamboanga City a bad name.
But there are not enough social centers to provide mendicants food and shelter or rehabilitation and livelihood programs.Many children in Zamboanga City have abandoned their chances for education to sell scraps and help feed their poor families.
Other young girls and boys have been forced into prostitution. Just last week, at least 30 of the street children separately rounded up had indications of sexually transmitted diseases.
Zamboanga City’s street children rarely become beneficiaries of valuable aid. There are instances when some politicians provide them porridge, not because they care about their plight, but largely for publicity purposes.
During the Christmas season, politicians extend financial assistance to some local organization that take care of orphans or the elderly, not to street children.
“We have really nothing at all,” said Felimon Cruz, 14, who has begging in the streets of Zamboanga City the past six years. “We eat food that people throw away, that we find in the garbage. I sometimes cry and ask God why I have to suffer like this, like why my family is poor and why nobody is helping us. I don’t know the answers.”
Like the children in Lumba-ngan village in the eastern coast where the government dump is located, they dig for scrap to help feed their families. They also despair that no sustainable livelihood programs are made available for them.
These children are often sick in because of the strong stench of garbage, and no politicians ever visited the area to check on the situation there.
Children, as young as two years old, are now regular diggers in the garbage dump, about 10 km from the bustling downtown Zamboanga.Rodel Cabayacruz, 13, spent half of his lifetime in Lumbangan scavenging for scrap—papers, tin cans, and even rotten food—to help his family.
“I come here every day and I don’t mind the stench,” he said. “What is important is for me to bring a little money for my brother’s milk. We are so poor that my mother cannot even send me to school.”