The Philippine government, from time to time is confronted with an issue of whether it wanted to put its best foot forward or to be politically incorrect. The issue surfaced after Pope Francis visit, when it heralded in the news that the Department of the Social Welfare Services (DSWS) herded an army of the destitute and the homeless who lives on the street to a flush resort in Batangas. Of course, the organizer of the Papal visit had this scenario considered. And they chose to be politically incorrect, because, if ever the issue would come out, the government has a ready answer for it.
As perceived by many, historically aided, Dinky Soliman, the DSWS Secretary, kept these homeless people out of sight of the pope. At first, Ms. Soliman didn’t admit this publicly because it was politically incorrect.
The past Philippine’s administration, Imelda Marcos and Gloria Arroyo, for example, did the same whenever world events involving world’s VIPs visited the country. They spruced up Manila’s blighted sceneries, which they thought as a disgrace to the visiting dignitaries. These, they did, the rationale of which was obvious. They wanted to put their best foot forward and leave no impression that the country looked miserable. The difference this time with Dinky Soliman was that she had come up with plausible explanations, which gave her the benefit of the doubt.
The Filipinos have this embedded mores, as part of their hospitality that whenever there are visitors coming to their place they make sure nothing in the surroundings would elicit bad impression, as this would hurt the host’s ego. So as much as possible this is an event that they have to put their best foot forward. And this custom possibly elevate in the macro level, as in the case of the Government.
Homelessness as a corollary to poverty is an age-old problem. The egalitarian society like the Western countries, although they can afford substantial allocation to the poverty problem, still they are not able to solve it completely. In their cities, they, too, have blight spots as haven of the homeless. The poverty virus knows no boundaries, and of resilient strains, that vaccine for it has not been found yet.
The Philippines have allocated resources, too, to alleviate the plight of the poor. But that seems not enough to sustain the 88 percent of the Philippine’s population who are poor. In addition, there are funds that are diverted to corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies. Moreover, and this had been the great dilemma of anyone who head the DSWS, these homeless people don’t want to get help. Well, they want, but no string attached. They would rather loiter on the street, no rent, or bills to worry about and if they are lucky earn or bum 100 pesos a day, that’s enough for them. Unlike if, they are under the supervision of the DSWS with imposed conditions and criteria that they have to oblige. What they want, if the government can do it, is a freeloading arrangement for life. If there is such a thing as “professional squatter” these people are “professional destitute”.
Because of limited resources, of course, the government wouldn’t pour resources on them if they don’t want to help themselves and so they’re back on the street.
The irony is where these homeless people are concentrated; it is the front and center of every world event activity. Therefore, the Government of whichever dispensation is always in a bind. Would they clean the metropolis of these homeless people during the event, which is politically incorrect? Or round these homeless people up, put them in a safe place for a while, to put their best foot forward?