BAGUIO CITY – The City Council approved on first reading a proposed ordinance prohibiting mendicancy in the city and providing the penalties for violators of the measure.
The ordinance authored by Vice Mayor Edison R. Bilog stated that it shall be a policy of the local government to prohibit mendicancy purposely to prevent the exploitation of infants and children through mendicancy; prevent situations that could endanger life, limb and property due to mendicancy, especially along busy roads and streets and provide interventions to address the prevalence of mendicants in the city, particularly the minors found begging.
The ordinance stipulated among the acts to be prohibited in the city include begging and soliciting by mendicants of cash in public places, including but not limited to streets, buildings, offices, commercial establishments, public utility vehicles; abetting any person or child to become a mendicant and giving cash to any mendicant.
The ordinance added that a mendicant shall be immediately rescued and endorsed to the City Social Welfare and Development office for proper profiling or recording and other appropriate actions or interventions necessary for their proper action.
Further, parents and guardians exploiting infants or minors shall be prosecuted pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations unless they are themselves mendicants.
Under the provisions of the ordinance, any child below 8 years of age who is found begging or is being utilized by any person for purposes of begging, shall be treated as a neglected child and shall be immediately committed to the custody and care of the City Social Welfare and Development Office and any person using the said child as a front in begging shall be also apprehended and be meted out with a penalty as may be provided.
Moreover, any person who distributes envelopes bearing the word ‘donation,’ selling items by force such as attaching bracelets and charms without permission of the individual and some other forms of fictitious claims of church memberships and organizations but without any valid permit, shall be considered a mendicant, thus, be subjected for arrest and penalized under the provisions of the measure.
The ordinance noted that any person not otherwise covered but who is found begging and is physical or mentally incapable of gainful occupation shall be properly endorsed to the City Social Welfare and Development office for appropriate action.
To ensure the effective implementation of the ordinance, the ordinance stipulated that the local government, through the City Mayor, shall create an Anti-Mendicancy Task Force which shall handle the arrest, filing of cases and the prosecution of mendicancy problems in the city.
The Anti-Mendicancy Task Force shall be composed of the City Social Welfare and Development officer as chair and the chairperson of the City Council Committee on Social Services, Women and Urban Poor; City Health Officer, the 128 Punong Barangays; the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) City Director; the Public Order and Safety Division under the City Mayor’s Office and other members as deemed necessary by the task force once convened.
Able-bodied mendicants 18 years old and above shall be penalized with a fine of P500 for the first offense, a fine of P1,000 for the second offense and a fine of P1,500 and 2 months imprisonment or both for the third offense.
By Dexter A. See