Citing anomalies in the relief distribution and the DSWD using it as a venue for ‘communist witch hunting’ in connivance with the military, the organization of Pablo survivors under Barug Katawhan (People Rise Up), through its spokesperson, Karlos Trangia demanded Soliman’s ouster at a protest outside the DSWD regional office, Tuesday.
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – After warning of bigger protests against the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Aquino government for being “inept” in implementing the relief and rehabilitation operations for the Pablo victims, the latter are now calling for the ouster of Secretary Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman.
Citing anomalies in the relief distribution and the DSWD using it as a venue for communist witch hunting, in connivance with the military, the organization of Pablo survivors under Barug Katawhan (People Rise Up), through its spokesperson, Karlos Trangia demanded Soliman’s ouster at a protest outside the DSWD regional office, Tuesday.
Trangia said they are wary that the list of names of recipients will serve the military’s counter-insurgency end, noting the way the military has also been adamantly insisting on the list as a requirement for the release by the DSWD of the promised 10,000 sacks of rice.
The release of the 10,000 sacks of rice was a deal that Pablo survivors managed to forge with Soliman at the confrontation during the barricade they launched in Montevista town highway, Compostela Valley province on January 15.
“You cannot stop us if we will also ask the list (of names who will receive the 10,000 sacks of rice) because we are part of the government,” Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division told Trangia through the phone when the latter was recently invited as guest by a local radio station.
“If you have nothing to hide, why should you be afraid?,” Paniza further grilled Trangia.
The Chief of the 10th ID’s Civil Military Operations Battalion Jake Obligado has earlier accused the Pablo barricaders in earlier television interviews of being “backed-up” by the underground National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Trangia said such instances only strengthened their suspicion that the names could indeed be used against members of their group, just like what happened to their leaders who are already being slapped with criminal charges for holding the barricade.
Trangia also finds it not only “questionable” but also “unnecessary” for the DSWD to require submission of all the names of all who should receive the promised 10,000 sacks of rice, given the “relief and quick assistance nature of such a service.”
DSWD-XI Director Priscilla Razon clarified that they required the names of all recipients for auditing purposes.
Trangia however said, if what DSWD wants is for them to be able to ensure that the goods end in the right hands, “shouldn’t the DSWD’s supervision at all levels of Barug Katungod’s distribution plan be enough for them to do the validation?”
Trangia said his group has in fact, insisted that representatives from the DSWD and local officials be present from the packing of rice up to the distribution. “There’s even no need for the master list,” he said, adding that they will base the recipients of the 10,000 sacks of rice on the list of the Barangay Health Workers.
Overpriced bunkhouses and ghost lists
Barug Katawhan also cited anomalies in the relief distribution as other grounds for their ouster call against DSWD’s Soliman. One they pointed out is the alleged mismanagement and corruption of the PHP 18 Billion calamity fund and international aid.
This as Pablo victims, especially in the far-flung areas, received relief packs only twice in the last two months. Some rice, the group added, were even rotten when distributed.
The group also hit the DSWD for “overpriced” bunkhouses.
Based on a published report, a DSWD bunkhouse that serves as temporary shelters for the Pablo victims costs PHP 550,000 compared to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) PHP 259,653.
Soliman, during the recent Philippine Development Forum here, issued a statement denying the report, saying their bunkhouses are “not overpriced.”
Their cost estimates, the statement added, “are more or less the same.” However, it said, there’s a difference in the total cost “mainly due to varying design features.”
A DSWD bunkhouse is said to have a bigger floor area, an inch thicker floor slabs, more roofing, with pathway, concrete wash areas, electrical, kitchen and toilet and bathroom compared to the IOM’s.
But Barug Katawhan’s Trangia maintains that this irregularity should be investigated as millions of fund that should have gone to the victims but ended up in corrupt hands, are involved here.
Barug Katawahan also raised the “ghost lists” for cash-for-work, specifically in the villages of San Rafael and San Antonio in Cateel town, Davao Oriental and some villages in Monkayo and Compostela towns in ComVal.
These, as Lumads in Baganga town, Barug Katawhan said, have complained that relief packs are being sold at PHP 200. They also received reports that the signatures of the laborers under the cash-for-work scheme were forged.
Cash-for-work laborers were also allegedly “underpaid” as they received only PHP 20,000 lump sum fee. But the DSWD liquidations tell otherwise, noting that a bunkhouse labor reached PHP 50,000.
“The DSWD has already proven itself to be corrupt and inept in implementing the relief and rehabilitation operations,” Trangia said, adding that the Aquino government is giving the 6. 2 Million Pablo victims the reason “to rise up” against the government.
With the “clear violation” of their rights and the “continued infringement” of their liberties, Barug Katawhan said they will continue to raise protest, this time, it will be bigger than the earlier launched January 15 barricade, if only to get what is due them. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)