MANILA, Jan. 28, 2015—Teaching poor people how to stand on their feet and live with dignity is more important than treating them like royalty, says a Catholic priest, commenting on recent reports of some 400 individuals who were brought to a resort in Nasugbu, Batangas by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) during the papal visit.

“These poor families are now back in the streets after their rendezvous in a posh resort hotel. Can’t the government show enough sincerity by giving them permanent dwelling places and livelihood projects? They are not even supposed to be trained to live like they have because in truth what they need to know is simply how to have,” observes Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA).

Pope Francis recently concluded an apostolic and state visit to the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19. (Photo: John Paul Autor)

Family camping workshop

The priest notes that the government can hide street-dwellers from the Pope, but not the reality of poverty itself.

“He saw it in the throngs of people who lined-up the streets to welcome him. And he knew it when he spoke of corruption and inequality in his message to our government leaders in Malacañan,” he shares.

Granting that those gathered underwent a “family camping workshop,” Secillano asks, do they really need to do it in a posh resort?

“[And] if the intention is for these poor families to be trained on how to live like those who are not deprived of basic necessities and of simple pleasures in life, is the government giving them enough opportunities to reach that status? And for how long are they going to train the poor for that purpose?” he adds.

Exploited again

According to the parish priest of Sampaloc’s Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, it would have been more believable if the government simply said the poor families risked being crushed by the millions who would occupy their dwelling places just to witness the Pope pass by, hence, the need for their temporary relocation.

“But for whatever intention the government has, the poor have already spoken. They are hidden from the Pope and they are supposed to be paid for their cooperation,” he says.

“The poor have cooperated but the government hasn’t paid them yet. In the end, the poor are again exploited. Sadly, it’s the government that did them in,” the priest adds.

Pope Francis recently concluded an apostolic and state visit to the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)