After repeatedly denying that the homeless and poor were removed from the streets of Manila in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to the country, the Philippine government’s Social Welfare Secretary admitted to sending some 100 poor families to an air-conditioned resort in time for the papal visit.
A teary-eyed Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman said in a Senate investigation meeting that her agency took them to an air-conditioned resort in Batangas to clear Roxas Boulevard, which was part of the route taken by the pope's motorcade in Manila.
The Chateau Royale resort in Nasugbu Batangas is located 90 kilometers south of the predominantly Catholic country’s national capital. The agency spent $97,600 for the six-day “family camp” supposedly as part of the Aquino government’s anti-poverty efforts. According to the agency, the training aimed to equip the participants with the skills that will help them find jobs or livelihood.
It's worth pointing out that Pope Francis, who is popular for his support for the poor, visited the country to see firsthand the real conditions of indigent and destitute Filipinos, especially the victims of typhoon Haiyan. Filipino netizens ridiculed the DSWD secretary and the administration of President Noynoy Aquino:
— cecille (@cecille_hbl) January 25, 2015
Dear dinky soliman, if only you hid your face from @Pontifex and not the homeless, more would have been happy with you.
hiding the poor from pope francis is purely anti poor sec. dinky soliman. #hypocrisy
— Robert Protacio (@sybillsantino) January 23, 2015
Nagmano ka pa naman kay Pope Francis Dinky Soliman! Mga walanghiya kayo!
— Alyssa Po (@alyyyssapo) January 23, 2015
And you were blessed by Pope Francis, Dinky Soliman! How shameless of you!
And witness how Dinky Soliman imagines poor people becoming a threat to the Pope's security. That stupid secretary should resign at once!
— Jude M. Mangilog (@judemangilog) January 24, 2015
Does Dinky Soliman think the Pope is clueless of the street kids fiasco?At this Info Age nobody can hide anything.
— eugenio isidro (@eugenio_isidro) January 24, 2015
Sec Dinky Soliman bakit mo naman tinago mga street children eh yan nga hhinahanap ni Pope? Nakakahiya na naman tayo intrrnational community
— Resty Mendoza (@restymendoza) January 23, 2015
Sec Dinky Soliman why did you hide the street children when they were precisely the ones the Pope was looking for? What an embarrassment we are to the international community
Secretary Soliman had earlier denied a news report that the department gathered and hid the poor during the papal visit. She insisted that the training given by her agency merely coincided with the visit of the pope.
After Soliman confessed about the “outing” of the homeless families, Filipino lawmakers have launched an investigation into the incident.
The poor families were taken back to Manila after the pope left the country.