pope arrives at Philippines
In anticipation of the Pope's arrival in Philippines, homeless children in Manila were caged.Reuters

Homeless children as young as five are being caged by Philippines' authorities to keep the streets of Manila "presentable" for Pope Francis' visit. 

The children are being held in detention centres alongside adult criminals so as to ensure that the city's poverty-ridden status is hidden from the pontiff during the first papal visit to the country in two decades.

Hundreds of boys were rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police and officials in anticipation of the papal visit, reported South China Morning Post. Completely disregarding Philippines' child protection laws, terrified children were locked up in filthy detention centres, where they were forced to sleep on concrete floors.

It is also understood that the helpless children were beaten and abused by older inmates and some of them have even starved and chained to pillars since last month. They are made to go to the toilet in buckets and fed leftovers, which they eat from the floor.

Father Shay Cullen, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Irish missionary priest, went on a mission to save the children locked up in the prison, ironically named "House of Hope", notorious for brutality, abuse and neglect.

"This is completely beneath human dignity and the rights of all the children here are being violated. There is no education. There is no entertainment. There is no proper human development," relates an exasperated Cullen.

He is also upset that the Pope would never be taken to visit these children, who have guardians or legal representatives. "They are a shame on the nation. Officials here would be horrified at the prospect of the pope seeing children treated in this way," he said.

The pope will be addressing an estimated six million people in an open-air mass on Sunday in Rizal Park, just a few minutes' drive from the 17 detention centres that hold Manila's street children.