DSWD to barangay officials: ‘Unite with us to make the coming Christmas season safe for street children’

By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, Nov. 22 (PNA) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is appealing for the cooperation of barangay officials in all local government units, particularly in Metro Manila, to make the coming Christmas season safe for street children by preventing them from doing caroling and asking for Christmas presents on busy streets in Metro Manila teeming with vehicles.

According to DSWD Secretary Corazon J. Soliman, the barangay leaders and their personnel manning the busy crossroads will be their important partners in ensuring that such scenarios can be avoided as the Christmas season is fast approaching.

Secretary Soliman said that barangays can help a lot by ensuring that there are activities designed and implemented for the children who want to enjoy the spirit of Christmas in their very own communities.

At the same time, Soliman is seeking to prevent the furtherance of the notorious child mendicancy problem on the streets during this busy holiday season.

Earlier, it has been noted that it is a common practice for the impoverished children to cover up begging through street caroling, which is a phenomenon that Soliman is determined to put an end to.

The DSWD chief expressed her concern, saying, “Caroling on the streets is risky, especially to children who squeeze themselves between vehicles and tap on car windows, or those who jump from one public utility vehicle to another. They are unmindful of the dangers to their life and limb.”

Soliman admitted that she is very much aware of the fact that it is very hard for kindhearted people to say “no” to poor children who are going up and down the jeepneys and buses asking for “Christmas gifts.”

However, Secretary Soliman warned that giving on the part of the commuters is the biggest reason why the children keep on placing their lives at risk and do not mind if they will be victims of accidents in exchange for what they can receive.

“We ask you (referring to commuters as well as public and private vehicle owners) not to give… If you will keep on giving to them (children), they will come back and more children will be going into crossroads because they know they will get something,” the DSWD chief said.

She said that one of the steps they had taken up to remedy that problem in the past years was by providing “incentives” to the barangays in the critical areas where the problems was existing.

Another step was the “Pasko ng Batang Pino” where the children spent a Christmas party with President Benigno S. Aquino III as a way of encouraging children to heed the agency’s call to stop begging on the streets.

Secretary Soliman said that as they try their best to boost that initiatives this year, they will be providing cash incentives to barangays in critical areas so that they will lead in the conduct of nine-day Christmas activities for the children to stop them from going resorting to street begging.

The activities will include “Belen” and Christmas lanterns making and other worthwhile undertakings that will culminate with Christmas parties on the last day wherein the children can be able to bring home gifts and cash prizes.

Soliman said that the incentives that they will be providing to the barangays in critical areas that will successfully implement such activities will amount to PhP100,000.

She further said they are also enjoining street facilitators and other organizations who want to provide help for the children without inviting them to the risky and busy areas of streets during the Christmas season.

The call was made by the DSWD in the culminating activity of the National Children’s Month celebrated through the “Araw ng Kabataan” last Saturday to highlight the promotion and protection of the welfare of the children at all times since today’s children will be the future generations of the country.

The activity also highlighted the citations of “exemplary children” of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in the different regions of the country to provide a picture of government’s initiatives and programs that support the promotion and protection of children’s rights, especially those in the poor sectors.

In that activity, the DSWD Chief further made its call among children beneficiaries of 4Ps to help spread the word that the streets are not the best places for the children.

She also told the parents benefiting from the program to be “models” in ensuring that abuses of children are stopped and a positive form of discipline is being exercise at all times.

She also said that everyone’s participation is important to ensure that all vulnerable children in the farthest communities can be reached with the programs and services for the poor to ensure that safe and child friendly environment are available for the Filipino children.

The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), DSWD’s attached agency, is also working on educating parents and guardians to act as the first line of defense in ensuring their children’s safety, especially during this festive time of the year. (PNA)