DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A team of social workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development is returning to Manila after they were refused entry by the tribal leaders in Davao del Norte for their one-stop service Thursday, Aug. 31.
DSWD Assistant Secretary for the Office of the Secretary, Aleli Bawagan, said they were disappointed that their supposed fifth one-stop service to indigenous communities got a cold treatment from the tribal leaders in Sitio Patil in Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong.
“We have brought nothing but services. What I really do not understand is why the datus (tribal chieftains) are not giving us permission. This is government service and we are bringing it closer to them,” she told Davao Today in a phone interview.
Bawagan said they will return the 2,500 family food packs to the warehouse at the DSWD regional office here. She said they refused to leave the food packs to the local government, citing possible repercussions they may face before the Commission on Audit.
“It is really meant for the people in Barangay Gupitan. We do not want to leave it there. Mahirap yun baka kami ma-audit ng COA because the food packs are meant for the intended beneficiaries,” she said.
2Lt. Amadeuz Celestial, civil-military officer of the 60th Infantry Battalion, said they were willing to provide escort to DSWD.
However, he said they also had a “lateral coordination” with the local government and the tribal council since the area is an ancestral domain.
“We really asked permission from tribal leaders before we go to the area,” Celestial told Davao Today.
Celestial said the response of the tribal leaders were not good.
“But we understand them because there were some ‘partners’ of the DSWD who entered the area before like the Pasaka, SILDAP, and RMP. Actually, they have a declaration of persona non grata against these personalities,” he said.
“The Datus were thinking that maybe this time around, the DSWD team is accompanied by those groups,” he said.
Celestial said they advised the DSWD to instead secure a Free and Prior and Informed Consent.
“With FPIC, even without us escorting them, they will be allowed to enter the ancestral domain,” he said.
On June 5, the Office of the Ata Manobo Council of Elders issued a persona non-grata declaration against Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations, Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated, Karapatan Alliance of Human Rights, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and SILDAP.
But the non-government organizations accused the military of masterminding the declaration to prevent the entry of NGOs tagged as supporters of the New People’s Army.
Bawagan, however, said they believe they do not need to secure FPIC.
“Sometimes it can be abused. This is government bringing service to them,” she said.
Aside from distributing food packs to some 2,000 beneficiaries, the DSWD’s one-stop shop was also supposed to: 1) validate of the possible beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer; orientation; 2) orient beneficiaries of the Kalahi-CIDSS program for small infrastructure; 3) validate of potential beneficiaries of the social pension program for the indigent senior citizen; and 4) identify possible beneficiaries for the supplemental feeding.
She said President Rodrigo Duterte, last year, gave them a directive to help the Lumad communities.
Bawagan said their previous one-stop services were held in the Talaingod town in Davao del Norte, Caraga town in Davao Oriental and San Fernando in Bukidnon province.
She said some residents would need to travel far to get the services of the government, a reason which prompted them to bring the programs of the DSWD to the village.
“This is part of our effort to reach out to far-flung communities, especially Lumad communities,” she said.
Bawagan said they were prepared to give out the food packs to the families to compensate for the hours that will be taken for the family members to travel going to the barangay center where they will hold the one-stop shop service as some of the families would have to travel six to eight hours from their villages to the barangay.(davaotoday.com)