Social Welfare department: There’s no confusion in Oro

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012


THE Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) denied the reported “confusion” in Cagayan de Oro about the relief and rehabilitation efforts for victims of Tropical Storm Sendong, as published in The Philippine Star on January 12.

In a letter to Philippine Star executive editor Ana Marie Pamintuan, DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman denied having said to the paper’s writer, Ernesto Maceda, that she was instructed by President Benigno Aquino to ignore Mayor Vicente Emano.

Soliman said no such instructions were given and that even Aquino himself was trying to reach Emano as early as the morning of December 17, 2011.

“I myself was able to talk with Mayor Emano in the afternoon of the same day through the phone line of Congressman Bambi Emano. And on December 20, the President met with Mayor Emano to discuss plans and ways to help the victims of ‘Sendong,’” she said in the letter.

Since then, Soliman said the DSWD has been in constant coordination with Emano regarding the management of evacuation centers, early recovery and rehabilitation.

She said the DSWD officials in the region met with Emano “on a regular basis” to address immediate concerns and needs related to relief operations.

Soliman said aside from the City Government, several agencies have been providing support to the rehabilitation efforts.

“The Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (DRRMC) law provides for the cluster approach to disaster response and the DSWD leads the Shelter Cluster and the Social Protection Cluster. Meetings have been conducted do discuss early recovery and relocation of internally displaced victims, which resulted in the identification of transition shelter sites and permanent relocation sites in Calaanan, Barangay Canitoan, as provided by Mayor Emano,” she said.

The DSWD secretary added that based on the agreed timeline, they would begin moving families to permanent homes by the first week of April.

However, she said due to the “magnitude of the challenge ahead and the various stakeholders involved in the rehabilitation plan,” the DSWD is providing a complaint desk in all evacuation centers to accept complaints that are verifiable to “ensure that no one is left behind.”

With this, Soliman is urging opinion writers, journalists and social media enthusiasts to first verify their facts.

“The ‘sabong’ approach of pitting local government units (LGUs), national government, non-government organizations (NGOs) and political leaders against each other do not serve the victims, especially the poor. I have to acknowledge and commend the leadership of the LGU of Cagayan de Oro, led by Mayor Emano, the other political leaders like Representative Rufus Rodriguez and civil society organizations (CSOs) such as Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, who have led the way of rising above differences in political alliances, in development approaches and party politics to focus on helping the typhoon victims move on. We can do no less,” she said.

She added that spreading misinformation is also a big disservice to all the government workers, CSOs, NGOs and faith-based volunteers who spent Christmas and New Year in the area “to continue to provide dedicated service.”

Soliman said through inaccurate and misleading statements, “we demean their efforts.”

Related to this, the DSWD is urging the public to report issues on “improper behaviors” of its officials and staff who deal with the survivors of “Sendong”.

Lawyer Arceli F. Solamillo, DSWD-Northern Mindanao director, said they understand and empathize with the plight of the storm victims and that they already instituted mechanisms to address the many concerns of the victims.

Earlier, Monsignor Elmer Abacahin called on the DSWD to “give training to its staff” on proper manners in handling people.

Abacahin said he received reports from the victims that some of the DSWD staff who evaluated them “were rude in dealing with them.”

Solamillo said they have already received instructions from Soliman to immediately create a Grievance Redress System, which will receive and respond appropriately to the complaints of the victims.

“I am urging the public to report the names and locations of DSWD employees. I assured the public that I will immediately provide appropriate action on complaints as soon as we get pertinent details,” she said.

Meanwhile, the DSWD also clarified that “renters” who were affected by the flash flood are also qualified to receive shelter assistance. (Nicole J. Managbanag)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 18, 2012.

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