(Atty. Eduardo) Estores also points out the issue “is not a question of legality; it is a question of justice and human rights. The state has an obligation to address the grievances of its people, and ensure the safe guarantee of the people’s right to food, shelter, and freedom of expression.”
By KENNETTE JEAN I. MILLONDAGA
Davao City, Philippines — Pablo survivors barricading the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office gained public support from lawyers and religious who condemned the police assault on them Tuesday, as donations of rice and goods kept coming in.
Barug Katawhan, the group of survivors that spearheaded the barricade, said that undisclosed donors have provided 220 sacks of rice and thousands more of dry goods for them. This drew cheers from the survivors.
But the group still reiterates its call to DSWD to provide them the 10,000 sacks of rice that secretary Dinky Soliman promised to them in a dialogue last January.
Meanwhile, the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao Davao Chapter in a press conference condemned the excessive use of force by the police on Tuesday’s dispersal of the barricaders, whom they accused of implementing public safety “one-sidedly.”
“The use of snipers positioned on rooftops and the use of high-powered rifles, defies any legal and moral justification,” UPLM officer Atty Lilibeth Ladaga said.
Eight people, including an 11-year-old girl and women, were injured by baton-wielding police in a tension-filed Tuesday when barricaders stormed inside the DSWD office and took hundreds of food sacks out to the streets, only to have it taken back by the police by force.
Tension rose again Wednesday morning when police delivering food to the DSWD security attacked protesters, and detained two of them at the Sta. Ana Police Station.
Lawyer Eduardo Estores, UPLM Davao chair, said the incident “showed that the people’s frustration and the cumulative anger have pushed them to the wall and they will do what they need to do to claim what is rightfully theirs.”
Estores also chides DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman for threatening to filing of charges of theft against the protesters.
“(The survivors) did not run with the goods. They merely brought them out on the street in an attempt to force the officials of the DSWD to dialogue. Furthermore, the DSWD is simply a trustee of these relief goods that are intended precisely for the victims that Dinky Soliman is accusing of theft. An owner cannot steal from himself,” explains Estores.
Estores also points out the issue “is not a question of legality; it is a question of justice and human rights. The state has an obligation to address the grievances of its people, and ensure the safe guarantee of the people’s right to food, shelter, and freedom of expression.”
Religious visited the barricade such as Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Sr. Noemi Degala SMSM, executive secretary of Sisters’ Association in Mindanao and convener of Balsa Mindanao.
“With all they’ve been through today, it gives me great pain to see them suffer, yet, they have taught me resilience and courage to remain steadfast despite their vulnerability being tested,” Sr. Degala posted later on her Facebook account.
The DSWD still maintains its demand that Barug Katawhan produce a masterlist of names of the Pablo survivors before they release the 10,000 sacks of rice they promised to the group last January.
Barug Katawhan in a statement chided the DSWD, “Dakong pagsupak sa prisipyo sa makikatawhang disaster response ang gihimong paghasol-hasol sa DSWD sa mga biktima pinaagi sa pagtakda og mga kondisyon ilabina ang paglista sa mga biktima nga kung sutaon obligasyon man unta sa gobyerno. (What the DSWD is doing defies the principle of humane disaster response for burdening the victims with such condition as providing them a list, when it is the obligation of the government to do such things.”)
The group said had the DSWD been fair and responsive to them, the barricade would not happen. “Klaro nga dili na unta kita modangat niini kung sa sinugdanan, tin-aw, hapsay ug makatarunganon ang serbisyo sa DSWD alang kanamo (We would not reach this point if at the very start, the DSWD had been clear, orderly and fair in their services).” (With a report from Irene V. Dagudog, davaotoday.com)