Public reminded of anti-mendicancy law
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO - During the Christmas season, this capital city suddenly becomes home to groups of mendicants, especially Aeta families who go down from the mountains to seek their share of Yuletide blessings.
But while Christmas is known to be the season of giving, the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) here reminded public to be mindful of the Anti-Mendicancy Law.
The law, Presidential Decree No. 1563, prohibits the public from extending assistance, particularly monetary, to mendicants in an aim to prevent the exploitation of infants and children through mendicancy and promote the rehabilitation of minors found begging in the st r eet s.
CSWD Officer Aileen Villanueva said about 300 members of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) such as Badjaos and Aetas flock to the city to ask for alms from passers-by in the streets, motorists and the commuting public.
“Badjaos are usually mainstays in the streets as they keep coming back despite being constant beneficiaries of the government’s ‘Balik-Probinsya’ program. But during Christmas season, the streets of San Fernando, especially here in the downtown area, are filled with Aeta families,” Villanueva said.
Instead of giving alms in the streets, Villanueva urged the public to direct their desired assistance through the government or legitimate foundations for a more organized system of extending help to the needy.
“Of course we cannot control the public but we are asking them join government activities or those legitimate foundations or organizations to remove from their mindset that there is life on the streets,” she said.
The organized conduct of extending assistance to the needy also aims to prevent the ballooning number of beggars in major streets and encourage the mendicants to look for decent jobs.
For the government’s part, Villanueva said that the city government has been keen on implementing the law through various programs aimed at providing sustainable assistance to the mendicants, both young and old.
She disclosed that their office has sent hundreds of mendicants home, while others became beneficiaries of different livelihood training programs and educational assistance for the youth in an aim to keep them away from begging and uplift their lives.
“The government, not only here in San Fernando, has various programs that our IP brothers can avail of. We have the ‘Balik-Probinsya’, the livelihood trainings and financial assistance to start a small business, or participate in bazaars organized by the government,” she said.