THE number of beggars including indigenous tribesmen ‘rescued’ by the police in Metro Manila since last December 11 have reached 903 yesterday and still growing, National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said.
Eleazar said that 539 of those ‘rescued’ were minors even as he said they will be continuing to implement Presidential Decree 1563 or the Mendicancy Law of 1978 to help protect the young beggars and have them and their parents and other adult companions returned to their provinces as soon as possible.
Since last December 11, the NCRPO chief said that they have already conducted 122 operations which led in the rescue of 210 Aeta tribesmen including 41 male adults; 63 female adults; 60 male minors and 46 female minors.
Also rounded-up were 109 Badjao tribesmen composed of 20 male adults; 25 female adults; 28 male minors and 36 female minors.
Eleazar said those operations likewise resulted in the rescue of non-indigenous persons, mostly informal settlers composed of 134 males, 81 females, 257 male minors; and 112 female minors.
He said that the Northern Police District rounded-up 26; the Eastern Police District with 55; the Manila Police District 334; the Southern Police District 166; and the Quezon City Police District 322.
Many of those rescued were warned by authorities that a repeat offense will bring them further trouble while the minors were turned over to either the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Manila’s Boys Town or barangay officials after documentation and counseling.
Eleazar ordered the rescue of the beggars amid complaints they’re everywhere, loitering and sleeping under the EDSA flyover near Camp Crame, outside shopping malls, every business establishments and every busy intersections with traffic lights disturbing motorists, pedestrians and most importantly tourists.
Hundreds of these beggars, many of them minors and indigenous people have literally swarmed Metro Manila since the start of December. Although their presence is being felt every Yuletide Season, their very big number this month have already alarmed authorities in the metropolis.
There are questions that need to be answered too: Are these poor people working for syndicate.
The NCRPO uses the Anti-Mendicancy Law or Presidential Decree No. 1563 issued by the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos in going after the beggars who could face a minimum P500 fine and as much as P1,000 fine or 2-year in prison if they are proven to be ‘habitual offenders.’
Eleazar however has made it clear that the roundup of beggars and street children is not a crackdown on the poor since they are merely implementing PD 1563. The NCRPO chief said they also want to protect the beggars specially their young kids from the hazards of living in the streets and sleeping in cold pavements.
Police have also received numerous complaints about the presence of some beggars who destroy the side mirrors or scratch the paint of vehicles whose occupants don’t give them alms. There are also reports that some have been threatening drivers specifically women with harm.
Apart from that, the mendicants also contribute to the worsening traffic situation as they block the path of motor vehicles in order to force drivers to give them money.
Supposedly, the DSWD should be the premier government agency tasked to address the problem on mendicancy and at the same time help the beggars return to their hometowns.
However, the perennial complaint is that as soon as the beggars are turned over to the DSWD by the police, it would only take them a day or two before they return to the streets they love most.