Not everyone in the Philippines was able to see Pope Francis when he began his current visit to the Philippines. A group activists carrying signs for social justice says the police prevented it from staging a demonstration in sight of the Pope's motorcade. There are also reports that law enforcement officers detained several street children during the Pope's public procession.
Pope Francis will tour the Philippines from January 15 to January 19. The visit, themed “mercy and compassion,” takes Pope Francis to the largest Catholic-dominated nation in Asia.
Some 2,000 activists gathered in Manila to greet the Pope by unfurling banners that highlight some of the issues that affect the nation's poor, such as hunger, landlessness, and injustice. Police blocked the march from getting near the motorcade, however.
Activist leader Nato Reyes criticized the government for stopping various groups from trying to tell the Pope about the Philippines’ “real situation”:
From Day 1, there has been a conscious effort to regulate what the Pope can see and hear. It is monumentally ironic since the Pope did not come here to see only ” true, the good and the beautiful”. The Pope came here to hear about the problems of the poor and marginalized.
In addition to interfering with protesters, the government also reportedly “detained” and “caged” street children a few days before the Pope's arrival. Manila Standard Today, a major daily newspaper, questioned the wisdom of this policy, saying it amounts to a Potemkin-Village approach.
The government has denied detaining street children during the Pope’s visit.
Meanwhile, officials erected a green wall along the Pope's motorcade route, preventing him and other motorists from seeing the urban poor who live beyond the barrier.
Another “barrier” separating the Pope from the people was the heavy security. Many said the deployment of police and placement of metal barriers throughout the city was excessive, making it difficult for people even to glimpse the nation's special guest. Several disgruntled Filipino Internet users pointed to the Pope’s recent visit to Sri Lanka, where he was seen touching and blessing the hands of the faithful along the road.
— Bam Alegre (@BamAlegre) January 16, 2015
— 9News Philippines (@9newsph) January 16, 2015
The government says the strict security detail is a necessary precaution. Still, many continue to urge authorities to respect the wishes of the faithful and let them closer to the Pope:
Sure it's for security purposes but I think the Pope would really like to reach out to the people hidden by hundreds of security personnel.
— Kat De Castro⭐♎ (@KatDeCastro) January 16, 2015
Nonoy Oplas criticized the “militarized security system” adopted by the government:
Seeing him on the road is the closest thing (the people) can get and see the Pope. And the paranoid security system tried hard to make the public's view of the Pope as short as possible, as far as possible.
Many are hoping the government will rethink its security arrangements in the days ahead, to allow more people to lay eyes on Pope Francis, before he departs on January 19.