Typhoon survivors ransack DSWD office in Davao

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013


DAVAO -- Thousands of Typhoon Pablo survivors looted Tuesday some 3,750 packs of relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) office in Davao City, affecting traffic and classes in nearby areas.

The survivors stormed the DSWD regional office at 10:50 a.m. of Tuesday, decrying the agency’s failure to distribute 10,000 sacks of rice among the victims, six-month extension for the distribution, and alleged corruption of relief funds.

They started to camp out along Suazo Street and R. Magsaysay Avenue on Monday afternoon, preventing the DSWD employees from coming out and getting in the office. The incident affected traffic along the street, and classes in nearby Sta. Ana Central Elementary and High School.

The DSWD office had only one guard-on-duty during the ransacking, which led the protesters to press on and carry the sacks of rice and goods, hauling these off to Suazo Street.

Typhoon Pablo victims ransack DSWD office in Davao City.
Photo by King Rodriguez of Sun.Star Davao

Some personnel of Sta. Ana police then secured the area and held Mariel Moraldo, spokesperson for Anakbayan in University of Philippines-Mindanao, at the vicinity of the office for allegedly provoking the protesters to enter, causing the gate to collapse.

Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Director Ronald dela Rosa, who arrived to pacify the wild protesters at 11:30 a.m., appealed for sobriety.

“Kinasingkasing namo ni nga hangyo sa inyo. Hangyo lang dili ta magpakabayolente (This is our request from the bottom of our hearts, this is but a request, please do not turn violent),” he told protesters.

He said he also ordered his troops to release Moraldo, who was held for half an hour, “so there will be no cause for further uproar. Let’s all be calm.”

Karlos Trangia, one of the leaders of Barug Katawhan, said they will file a case against the police members who held Moralde.

“Tama to ingon nimo nga dili magpakabayolente pero ilang gipukpok. Gibunalan sa pulis. Pwede man unta badlungon lang (What you said about not turning violet is right, but they were the ones who hit the student, they could have just told her off),” he told dela Rosa.

In an interview with reporters, dela Rosa said they are exerting maximum tolerance to resolve the problem diplomatically and retrieve all the items looted.

He said Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio ordered him to just pacify the fuming crowd and never exert any force against them.

Typhoon Pablo victims ransack DSWD office in Davao City.
Photo by King Rodriguez of Sun.Star Davao

“Dili na acceptable sa society, this is looting. Dapat nay sistema buhaton dili kay looting ilang himuon, mao ni karon naa nay disorder. Ihatag man na sa ilaha pero karon kawat na ilang gibuhat (What they did is not acceptable in any society, that is looting. There should be a system to claim those goods, not through looting. That’s the reason why there is disorder. Those goods will ultimately be given to them, but what is happening now is plain robbery),” he said.

“Wala koy labot sa issue nila, ang akoa ani dili magkagubot (I don’t care what their issues are, my concern is there will be no discord). We have to exert reasonable force,” he added.

He said they would continue to guard the area until protesters leave the place.

Superintendent Caezar Cabuhat, chief of Sta. Ana police, said around 600 boxes of noodles, 3,000 food packs and 150 boxes of coffee were looted.

They based it on the inventory of the DSWD accounting, he said.

“Isa ito sa pinakamahirap komprontahin kasi intervention ito ng government. Hindi kasi ito fixed eh, pabago-bago ang mga galaw nila. Tan-awa karon nahilom, unya ani samok na pud (Now it’s quiet, but later on, this can turn unruly again),” Cabuhat told Sun.Star Davao.

He said one of his main concerns is the security of DSWD Regional Director Priscilla Razon, who was at the office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Davao located beside the DSWD office.

“Di ako pwede umalis baka pwersahin (I can’t leave because these protesters might become violent),” he said.

Juland Suazo, spokesperson of Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, said militant leaders never ordered the protesters to forcibly enter the DSWD.

In fact, he said he was delivering his speech on the platform positioned at the corner of street when some of the protesters at the back started to enter the office.

“Naa mi diri (militant leaders) to support them. Humiliation na para aning mga tao naa diri nga tawagon nga ransack ang gibuhat nila kay kani mismo sila mga victims eh, victims sa bagyo ug nangayo ra ni sila ug tabang sa gobyerno (we are here to support them. But to accuse them of looting is humiliating. These are victims who are demanding help from government),” he said.

When asked about the roster of Typhoon Pablo victims who are demanding for sacks of rice from the DSWD, he said the transparency should come from the government itself, pointing out that it is the DSWD’s task to come up with a roster that includes all.

He also denied reports that protesters are not from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Razon said the protesters blocked the way and the entrance, preventing them to enter.

“That is ground for another case against them. Looting, robbery, theft, damage to property and public disturbance,” Razon said in an interview at the BFAR office before the looting happened.

“They claim to be pro-poor, but what are they doing to the agency mandated to serve the poor? How many people’s needs are not responded to because the operation has been cut? We cannot process the assistance. They say they are pro-poor and yet they are making it difficult for the poor people to be extended by our help,” she said.

Razon said she contacted Dela Rosa to provide security as protesters are preventing them to get inside the office.

“I came as early as 6 a.m. I was even monitoring them since last night,” she said, adding she also checked with the City Hall regarding the permit of the protesters to picket, but there was none.

Meanwhile, Cabuhat said the protesters might be sued for obstruction of public property, robbery and illegal assembly.

“Kakasohan lang sila pag may goods na nailabas mula diyan sa barrier natin,” he said.

Trangia said they are not afraid to be sued again for the same reason.

He said: “Ang importante maipalabas namo kung unsa ka corrupt ang DSWD. Bahala kapila mi nila kasuhan (What’s important is that we are able to expose how corrupt DSWD is, we don’t care how many times we will be sued).” (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 27, 2013.

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