Experts agree on what you should and should not do.
They’re everywhere, coming in different forms and with different pleas. Some board public transport and polish your shoes, or wipe your car’s windshield once stopped. Some hand out envelopes saying they need the money for school. Some even go as far as presenting a medical certificate in the hope of getting financial aid for their “illness.” Others pretend to be lost, in need of assistance for their commute back home. Some appear to be genuinely helpless, while nonchalantly blurt out expletives if you give them nothing.
Not all of us know, but there’s a law that covers this alarming social problem. According to the Presidential Decree No. 1563, “a habitual mendicant” and “any person who abets mendicancy by giving alms directly to mendicants” alike are punishable by law.
The Mendicancy Law of 1978 aims to promote social justice and protection of life as “mendicancy breeds crime, creates traffic hazards, endangers health, and exposes mendicants to indignities and degradation.”
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman says the government is serious in enforcing these laws to keep children off the streets. She says there’s a way to help street children—and it’s not by handing them loose change straight from your pocket.
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Money won’t fill their stomachs
According to American journalist and writer Jillian Keenan, “Organized begging is one of the most visible forms of human trafficking—and it’s largely financed and enabled by good-hearted people who just want to help.”
Keenan also exposed that human trafficking syndicates grow their profits by inflicting physical deformities such as gauging out eyes, damaging faces with acid, or severing a limb as disabled mendicants acquire more because of sympathy. “To prevent the children from running away, traffickers often keep kids addicted to opium or other drugs,” she elaborated.
In 2012, The Philippine Star ran a report about a man who had been allegedly “taking care” of the beggars along C.M. Recto and Rizal Avenues and in Sta. Cruz, Manila. As per the informant, the children “are told to ride passenger jeepneys and beg” by a certain “Empoy.”
Similarly, in a report that aired in December 2015 on ABS-CBN News, an eight-year-old boy abducted in Cubao, Quezon City was later seen by a concerned citizen begging for alms at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila. The boy was giving the alms he’d collected to his abductor.
There is a misconstrued notion that human trafficking is limited to sexual slavery and forced labor. As an effect, it has become mundane to see children held by women begging loitering in the streets, begging for money. “Women and children are trafficked within the country for forced labor as domestic workers and small-scale factory workers, for forced begging, and for exploitation in the commercial sex industry,” according to humantrafficking.org.
The help that truly counts
“To be safe, don’t give money to street beggars. Just prepare rice and canned goods to make sure that it will not fall into the hands of syndicates,” says Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.
Additionally, Soliman says that if you really want to help mendicants, you can course it through agencies and licensed/accredited non-government organizations, or to religious institutions.
Aside from giving food and clothing, you can sign up yourself with trusted organizations that address such a social concern. Instead of shooing the vagrants away, start a conversation and build awareness on their rights.
Remember this important maxim: “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” –Diana Lyn Balbalosa