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Pope saw poor kids, says Tagle.

BACOLOD CITY -- Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Monday said that if there was any intention to hide the street children of Manila from Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines, those behind it did not succeed.

"If there was any intention to hide the street children from him, they were not hidden. We were able to bring the Holy Father to the street children being sheltered in one house and they were able to interact," said Tagle, who was in Bacolod on Monday.

Hundreds of street children and homeless people were carted off by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to a plush resort in Batangas during the papal visit.

"That's what we heard. I think the department in charge is claiming it was not the real reason for the outing. We should give them an opportunity to explain. Even Malacanang has agreed to conduct an inquiry into that so we will wait for the result of the inquiry," he said.

"But even without the Pope's visit, we should really look for ways to respond to this situation, especially in the metropolitan areas where it's not just street children you see but street families. A more permanent solution, not just cosmetics is needed," he said.

"This calls for a concerted effort. I know the problem is very complex with no easy solution. We need the collaboration of everyonepeople in government, business, education, nongovernment organizations, people's organizations, faithbased communities. We can all come together to contribute a bit of our wisdom and our efforts to it," Tagle said.

Solved, not hidden

Urban poor groups on Monday picketed the DSWD to protest the agency's alleged attempt to hide the country's poverty from Pope Francis.

The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap said that the poverty problem should be solved and not hidden from the eyes of the Pope.

The protesters brought along a pushcart which they said symbolized the plight of homeless street dwellers, who supposedly attended an orientation of the modified conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the government in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Kadamay secretary general Carlito Badion said that no one believed the explanations of Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman on the issue and that she should make a public apology.

"If she cannot do that, it's about time that she checked out of the DSWD. She should not wait for the public to force her out of her office," he said.

The orientation for the modified CCT program involved around 600 street dwellers during the time of the papal visit. The DSWD, however, defended the move, saying it was merely coincidental and that the activity had been planned beforehand.

P4,000 per night

In previous statements, Soliman said they were not trying to hide the poverty of the people. On the contrary, they were taking street dwellers off the streets to give them a better life.

Kadamay claimed the DSWD may have spent over P1 million for the seminar, if a room at the Chateau Royale in Nasugbu cost P4,000 a night, excluding food and transportation expenses.

Badion said the amount could have helped create more jobs and build houses for the poor, if the funds were allocated to the right projects.

"If Soliman is a Catholic, does she not understand the Pope's message to public officials that they should be honest and have integrity?" Badion said.

Real changes

The urban poor group also urged President Aquino to stop the implementation of the CCT program as it raised the poverty level in the country.

What is needed, according to Kadamay, is a change in social structures which Pope Francis said was the cause of "scandalous inequalities" in the country.

"This can be done with true land reform, a national minimum wage for workers and the creation of jobs," Badion said.

Meanwhile, the University of St. La Salle on Monday honored Tagle with the Fides Award, the highest Lasallian recognition given to individuals or institutions that have achieved the promotion of quality Christian education.

The award was given at rites at the USLS Coliseum in Bacolod City attended by Catholic teachers and students.

Tagle, who graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Ateneo University, thanked the USLS led by its president, Br. Ray Suplido, FSC, and its chair of the Board Jose Ledesma, for the recognition.

"It is not just for me. This is really for many men and women who are trying their best in quiet ways to be true to their faith and to translate their faith into actions of love, justice and peace. In the name of many people who are not recognized and not known, I gladly accept this Fides Award," he said.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 27, 2015
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