Relief goods for Yolanda survivors 'stolen'

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Friday, July 25, 2014


CEBU CITY -- Eight to 10 persons were seen allegedly stealing relief goods inside the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) in Mandaue City.

The relief goods were under the custody of Gawad Kalinga (GK) and intended for Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors in the northern Cebu towns.

Capitol chief security officer Loy Madrigal said the incident happened last June 18 and, based on the security camera’s footage, the suspects gathered boxes and sacks of goods from inside CICC.

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Capitol and GK officials could not yet say how much the stolen items were worth, because an inventory still has to be conducted.

Antonio “Toby” Florendo, GK Cebu head, said 80 to 90 percent of their goods left in the CICC were clothes and the rest were bottled water. Most probably, those items taken from their storage area were the donated clothing.

GK will issue an initial report today (July 26), said Florendo.

Secondhand clothes remain popular items in nearly all of Cebu’s public markets, attracting bargain-hunters. These are also among the most commonly donated items, along with rice, canned goods and bottled water, whenever communities respond to calamities like the quake and super typhoon that struck the Visayas less than a month apart last year.

Yolanda wiped out nearly P40 billion worth of public infrastructure, crops and agricultural equipment when it struck last Nov. 8, 2013. It also killed more than 6,200 persons, and either damaged or destroyed more than one million homes.

Familiar

Gawad Kalinga activated its network of volunteers and organized a massive relief and rehabilitation campaign in the two calamities’ wake, sending out food, water and, later, helping hundreds of families rebuild their homes.

The culprits in this case were apparently unaware of the closed-circuit TV (CCTV) camera placed in the CICC’s hallway, in front of the building.

Madrigal said the incident happened from 7 a.m. last June 18 until midnight.

The items were placed on a truck after being carried out of building, Madrigal said.

“Pagsulod didto, narecognize ni sila nga mag-adtuan didto so wala lang kaayo ma-alarma atong guards (The security guards probably recognized them as persons who had been inside the building before, and so they were not alarmed),” Madrigal said.

He said the CICC is supervised by the Capitol’s Civil Security Unit and also guarded by members of the demolition team.

The Capitol is currently in the process of choosing a security agency. Madrigal confirmed that the goods were the ones entrusted with GK, because an official of the foundation called up his office two to three weeks ago and informed him that some goods were missing.

Unauthorized

GK’s letter to the Capitol said that the officials have reviewed the CCTV footage.

“We would like to state that the entry into the GK storage area in CICC on June 18, 2014 and the withdrawal of goods on said date were unauthorized. We are currently doing our own investigation on the matter,” a part of GK’s letter read.

Gawad Kalinga has also formed a committee to work closely with the Capitol on the investigation.

Madrigal said that GK officials identified some familiar faces upon checking the CCTV.

Provincial Information Officer Ethel Natera said that the Capitol allowed GK and Department of Social Welfare and Development to use the CICC for the storage and repacking of goods, after Yolanda hit large parts of the Visayas, including several northern Cebu towns, last November 8.

Florendo assured that they had an inventory of the goods before the incident happened.

Warehouse

In a separate interview, Jerome Awit, community infrastructure program head of Gawad Kalinga, said the clothes were not immediately distributed because these had yet to be sorted.

Awit said the clothes were placed inside the CICC because the organization does not have a warehouse. He said this was the first time such an incident happened to Gawad Kalinga.

When asked why the bottled water was still stored in the CICC, Florendo also said there was “no immediate need to distribute the water.”

Madrigal said they will closely coordinate with the Mandaue City Police Office on the matter.

PO2 David Umambac of the Centro Police Station in Mandaue City said no one has reported the theft to their office yet.

In a phone interview, Umambac said the police will wait for a formal complaint so they can investigate and file theft cases against the suspects seen in the recorded CCTV images.

“We will make follow-ups once the incident is reported to our office,” he said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 26, 2014.

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