EDITORIAL - With many other problems, let the beggars be
(The Freeman) - April 12, 2017 - 12:00am

In the news lately was a warning from City Hall that it would soon be strictly enforcing the law against mendicancy and the giving of alms to the poor. Maybe it is to the best interest of City Hall if it simply did the opposite — throw the darn ordinance into the wastebasket. The anti-mendicancy law is impractical and nearly impossible to fully implement.

Stopping the giving of alms to the poor is contrary to everything people have been told about the poor, which is that there being so many of them, it is the duty of everyone to help them. Governments help by creating employment opportunities and providing livelihood assistance. Its flagship project, the 4Ps program, is one giant alms-giving initiative funded in the billions of pesos. Citizens can help by giving alms, extra food they can't consume, used clothing they can't throw away.

The argument that giving alms encourages mass dependence and lethargy does not hold any water in light of the fact that there are not that many beggars begging. One can easily verify this by driving around. Besides, as a predominantly Catholic country, most citizens grew up believing it is necessary to give to the poor. Maybe it is just the terminology that makes beggars sound condescending and giving of alms unpleasant to the ear.

On the other hand, there are not that many people that City Hall can throw into the job of running after beggars and those who give them alms. Indeed, there are not that many government employees to enforce all the other rules and regulations that all governments never seem to ever tire of producing, never mind if almost all of them end up never getting implemented at all.

It is understandable if the purpose of making noise about cracking down on mendicancy is to project a public image of a government truly on its toes in seeing to it that all laws are being implemented. Publicity has a way of compensating for real action. But if the noise was made in earnest, then it cannot be avoided to ask why, of all the laws in existence, why focus on this one.

Again, it is not easy to implement this law because mendicants are few and enforcers even fewer. The giving of alms can happen in a matter of seconds, too fast for a police that is notorious for being the last to arrive in most crime scenes. And then there are hundreds of laws with far greater impact on far more people that are not getting implemented for one reason or another.

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