POLICE personnel and local officials will conduct a “One Time, Big Time” operation to rescue street dwellers in Cebu City to protect them from being infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) deputy director for operations, told reporters that they are initiating the rescue operation in compliance with the order of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to remove mendicants and street dwellers.
Parilla said aside from local officials, representatives from the DILG and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be present during the operation.
After they are rescued, the street dwellers will be checked if they have relatives living in Cebu Province or in other provinces in the country.
Parilla said: “Officials from the Cebu City Hall will help in processing their identification. Those qualified to go home to their respective provinces will be given financial assistance. We will also coordinate with officials from their local government units to help facilitate their return to their homes.”
The street dwellers 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.
For street dwellers who previously lived in Cebu Province, city officials plan to coordinate with the Provincial Government to help facilitate their return home.
The street dwellers will undergo a Covid-19 swab test before they are allowed to go home.
For those who have homes in the city, they will be returned to their barangays, Parilla added.
Once they return to their provinces, local police and barangay officials will be monitoring movements of street dwellers.
If they are caught living on the streets in the city, police will have no choice but to file charges against them for violating the city’s anti-mendicancy ordinance, Parilla said.
He added: “We will be making a database of these street dwellers and mendicants to help in monitoring their movements. If we catch them begging and living on the streets for a second and third time, they will be facing a court case.”
Earlier, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella ordered the removal of mendicants and street dwellers off the city’s streets due to their vulnerability to Covid-19.
Labella warned that they can charge street dwellers and mendicants for violating the anti-mendicancy ordinance. This means paying a fine of up to P3,000 plus jail for up to a month. (AYB / JKV)