Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate inquiry into the increasing number of families and children living on the streets to determine concrete government interventions in addressing the root causes that led them to street begging.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 140, De Lima said she wants to review the existing short- and long-term social welfare interventions of the government for street children and their families to keep them from begging and endangering their lives.
“Their number has been on an increasing trend in recent years, and creating a pressing need to generate an up-to-date overview of the situation of street children to avert the effects of inadequate data to the government’s strategy that seek to address their situation and problems,” she said.
To date, there are approximately 250,000 street children in the Philippines, according to official figures from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Other reports claimed that their number can be as high as one million.
According to global network Consortium for Street Children, street children are exposed to a wide range of risks, such as the probability of domestic violence, recruitment into gangs, addiction to illegal drugs and exposure to mental health issues, among others.
The lady Senator from Bicol also noted that the number of street families and children, especially those coming from the provinces, is once again expected to rise on the major thoroughfares with the onset of the Christmas season.
“As we enter the Christmas season, there is an anticipated increase in homeless kids or street children and those belonging to Indigenous Peoples with their children in metro centers such as the National Capital Region – a recurring case which the government must proactively address,” she said.
“It is imperative to look into the state of social welfare interventions, the residential, center-based and community-based programs, and the long-term plan of government for street children and their families which demand review and careful consideration,” she added.
The Senator pointed out that street children are facing greater risk of human rights violations due to the government’s bloody war on drugs where they become the victims of the current policy and strategy of the government against crime and illegal drugs.
“A recent operation of the City of Manila to implement a curfew policy among minors revealed that many street children were doing solvent abuse. This shows one of the prevailing problems of street children and lack of effectivity of the government’s intervention,” she said.
“Amid several efforts of government, including rescue operations and round-up activities, the need for long-term interventions of the national and local governments through sustainable social welfare programs must be implemented to solve the crisis and address the alarming situation faced by street children, who are deprived of a better and promising future,” she added.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, also underscored the need for the government to address poverty which is the root cause of the decades-long problem of Filipino children living on the streets.
“Poverty not only represents the shackles that bind these children and their families to destitution, it also places stresses on families that may induce or exacerbate other problems, such as substance abuse, family break-up, child abuse and domestic violence,” she said.
In its General Comment on Children in Street Situations, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has enjoined states around the world to adopt holistic and long-term strategies and make the necessary budget allocations for children in street situations. (senate.gov.ph)