Interfaith lawyers educate homeless Filipinos on their rights
A group of Catholic and Evangelical Christian lawyers in the Philippines has launched a campaign to educate homeless people about their rights.
The group, called Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (DEALS), provides legal advice to the poor and marginalized in Filipino society.
“We are… determined to defend human dignity, facilitate access to justice and stand up for the poor and marginalized,” the group said in a social media post.
“We want to respond to the legal and technical needs of marginalized, poor and vulnerable groups, in particular beneficiaries of land reform, farmer-traders, migrant sectors, people and communities affected by disasters and victims of violations. human rights.”
On May 27, DEALS released a presentation on the human rights of the homeless to remind Catholics that even street dwellers have them.
Estimates from various nonprofit organizations put the number of homeless people in the Philippines at over 4.5 million, including children. Of that number, up to 3 million live on the streets of Manila.
You have the right to be free and not to be arrested without a warrant
“People and families living on the streets are the most vulnerable during this pandemic period. They have nothing to protect them from the virus and the elements. They are also vulnerable to abusive government authorities who jail them for violating quarantine protocols, ”the post said.
In May 2020, police jailed a fish vendor in Caloocan City for allegedly violating quarantine protocols by importing fish from another city.
The group wants to avoid similar cases by educating the poor about their rights.
“You [the homeless] have the right to social health care and access to medical facilities. You have the right to be free and not to be arrested without a warrant. Your rights are only guaranteed by the constitution, ”the group said.
“Sleeping on the street is not a crime. Sleeping under a bridge is not a crime. There is no law that punishes these acts, so you cannot go to jail just sleeping on the street.
They also said they could not be apprehended and sent to prison without a warrant signed by a judge.
No police officer is also authorized by law to confiscate any money they may have acquired through begging, unless the money is the proceeds of a crime, they said.
The group hopes to reach as many homeless people as possible through the cooperation of various charities and foundations, including organizations run by churches, which help take care of street residents.
Vincentian Father Danny Pilario and Father Flavie Villanueva of the Divine Word Society, who both lead missions for the homeless, said the poor must be empowered.
Those who live on the streets should realize how important it is for them to know their rights and how to protect them, said Father Villanueva, founder of the Saint Arnold Jansen Kalinga Center, an association that feeds the homeless in Manila.
Father Pilario, the founder of Vincent Helps, a program that feeds people living in landfills in the Manila suburb of Quezon City, said the group’s campaign was a just cause and that it should not be forgotten “that even the least of Filipino society have rights.