ASIA/PHILIPPINES – The poorest Filipinos are “non-citizens”: undocumented and without identity

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Manila – “There are many Filipinos, among the poorest, who are undocumented in our country. They are people without identity, without rights. It is a terrible situation”: Bishop Pablo Virgilio David told Agenzia Fides, head of the diocese of Kalookan, president-elect of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The term “undocumented Filipinos”, therefore, does not refer only to those who live and work as illegal immigrants in foreign countries. The Bishop explains: “When I became Bishop of Kalookan, I became aware of the presence of undocumented Filipinos in our country. A group of Korean nuns working in our diocese reported the phenomenon. The sisters run a nursery school for poor children in one of the parishes of Navotas, a coastal city of Metro Manila. They were shocked to find that, after kindergarten, about 20% of children could not be enrolled in public primary schools because they did not have documents.
They had no birth certificate or any form of identity to present”. “Many children in slums – he continues – are not born in hospitals or health centers. Some of them are born at home with the help of a midwife. The midwife is required by law to have them registered with civil institutions, but when the family cannot even pay for the services of a midwife, sometimes no one cares to register babies. The consequences for children, says Bishop David, are terrible. Children grow up without a publicly recognized identity. They are “non-citizens” in their own country. It is as if they do not exist. They cannot use public services because they do not have identity documents and they have no rights”. As their names do not appear in the National Bureau of Statistics, a government agency, they are not not even counted in the national population, he explains. The Diocese of Kalookan helps poor communities, where there are children who are not registered with the local government registration office, so that they can obtain official documents for children and sometimes also for children or adults.
In addition, civil society groups, as well as Catholic volunteers, encourage people to register so that they can be counted and benefit from social assistance measures, economic and social benefits, opportunities. education, employment and the right to vote.