Almost seven months into the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) finally realized that the homeless and beggars need to be taken off the streets to protect them from getting infected with the novel coronavirus.
Never mind that the majority of them seems to have weathered the worst of the storm and may even be immune to the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Still, their well-being is now of utmost importance to the agency, which recently issued an order to remove them from public space and return them to wherever they came from.
Those in Cebu City who are found to hail from other parts of Cebu Province will be sent back to their hometowns. Of course, only after their “host” local government unit coordinates with the Provincial Government and their municipal governments. And only if they qualify. After all, they still need to get swabbed and test negative for Covid-19.
If they happen to be city residents, they will be sent back to their barangays.
In the meantime, those who will be rescued during the One Time, Big Time operation “will be temporarily housed in a vacant property owned by the City in the North Reclamation Area where they will be fed and taken care of by City personnel.”
Initially, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella ordered City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. to find a halfway house for them.
Apparently, the mayor couldn’t stand the sight of them, having described their presence as “hugaw” or ugly.
Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, deputy director for operations at the Cebu City Police Office, said they will make a database of the homeless and beggars and monitor their movements afterward.
Those who are caught living on the streets or begging for a second or third time will be charged in court. Those in Cebu City may even be charged with violating the anti-mendicancy ordinance, which entails a fine of P3,000 and jail time of up to a month.
But if the government is really after these people’s welfare, it will find ways to provide them with a livelihood and a permanent roof over their heads. It should avoid treating them like criminals, which they are not.
Many of them may not have a choice on being homeless or being a beggar.