Bishops slam official for ‘hiding’ poor from Pope
MANILA: The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday lashed back at a cabinet official who said she did not regret bringing poor families and street children to a posh resort in Batangas province in Southern Luzon where the maximum room rate was $500 a night during the visit of Pope Francis to the country.
The Reverend Jerome Secillano, the executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs, said the poor should be taught livelihood projects to help improve their lives instead of treating them to a “taste of luxury.”
“Can’t the government show enough sincerity by giving them permanent dwelling places and livelihood projects?” Secillano asked in an article posted on the CBCP website.
Secillano added: “They are not even supposed to be trained to live like they have because, in truth, what they need to know is simply how to live.”
The strongly-worded Secillano statement indicated that the controversy over the alleged government attempt to hide the face of poverty from the Pope refused to die less than two weeks after he brought his message of “mercy and compassion” during his visit to the Philippines Jan.15 to 19.
The statement was in response to the admission of Secretary Dinky Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that they bundled off 400 poor families and street children to the high-end resort in the town of Nasugbu, Batangas to a “family camping workshop” for the duration of the Francis visit.
While shedding tears in her testimony before a Senate committee on the issue, Soliman said she “did not regret” the move, claiming the families and street children were common sights on Roxas Boulevard along the scenic Manila Bay, one of the major routes taken by Francis during his visit.
As such, Soliman said they wanted to get them out of harm’s way from the people who gathered by the millions along the boulevard to see Francis as he travelled in an open “popemobile.” to bring him to his busy official engagements.
Soliman also claimed the families were brought to the resort for orientation on the DSWD plans to provide them decent homes and teach them livelihood projects under the government’s modified cash transfer programme for the poor in Metro Manila.
Soliman’s admission, in turn, gave rise to increasing demands for her resignation for “embarrassing” the Aquino government.