RESCUE. A joint team is formed in Cebu City to rescue street dwellers. The Cebu City Police Office and Cebu City government on Friday (Oct. 16, 2020) started rescuing street dwellers in the city, following a directive from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. (Photo courtesy of Cebu City PIO)

CEBU CITY – Authorities have started rounding up street dwellers and mendicants here on Friday, following a directive from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) and authorities from the city government led the rescue operations.

“The rescued street dwellers will be assessed by the city government. Those who aren’t Cebu City residents will be assisted to be able to return to their respective provinces,” the city’s Public Information Office said in Cebuano in an advisory on Friday.

The government will shoulder all expenses for their trips back to their hometowns.

Those who are from Cebu City will be brought back to their families.

The DILG has directed all local government units to remove all mendicants and street dwellers in their respective localities.

Mayor Edgaro Labella has also ordered the rescue of homeless individuals in the city.

“The city government will be establishing a halfway house where these individuals will be brought and assessed by our Department of Social Welfare and Services to determine their origins so that they will be brought back to where they came from,” Labella said.

As the Christmas season nears, there are again several homeless and vagrants loitering in the city. It had become their practice in the past years to approach cars during traffic stops and ask for money after singing Christmas carols.

Loitering street dwellers have become a grave concern “since we are still in the middle of a pandemic due to Covid-19,” Labella said.

The presence of these vagrants in the city’s streets poses health risks not just for them but for motorists, other residents, and workers as well, the mayor said.

Cebu City Ordinance No. 1631 prohibits the giving to and soliciting by mendicants of cash or any material goods in public places, buildings and establishments in the city.

This has to be strictly implemented on top of our public health and safety protocol to ensure everybody’s safety, Labella said.

The penalty for the anti-mendicancy ordinance ranges from PHP500 to PHP3,000 plus jail time of up to one month. (PNA)