Pablo survivors slams lack of relief, militarization

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014


TYPHOON Pablo survivors and farmers from the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley have been holding a protest action in Davao City since Tuesday to condemn the alleged ongoing militarization, human rights violations, and lack of relief assistance in areas affected by the calamity.

Thousands of protesters, including members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Southern Mindanao and Barug Katawhan, have camped out in front regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Davao (DSWD) for the three-day protest that will be concluded today, February 27.

The protest action also commemorates the barricade the protesters had launched last year.

The survivors stormed the DSWD office in Davao City in 2013, decrying the agency's failure to distribute 10,000 sacks of rice among typhoon survivors and six-month extension for the distribution, and alleged corruption in the distribution of relief funds.

Barug Katawhan spokesperson Karlos Trangia said until now the survivors are still unable to sustain their living due to intensified "militarization and impounded relief goods from various non-government organizations."

"Our leaders and members are still experiencing harassment, surveillance and red-tagging. What's even worse is that the military (men arrested) and interrogate children, initiate food blockade in some areas in Compostela," Trangia said.

He also said the government troops have been using schools and other public structures as their camp putting at risk the lives of the people and their children. He added that even if it is illegal to install camps within civilian populace, the military continue to do so.

KMP chair Pedro Arnado, on the other hand, said for more than a year, the relief goods were still hard to claim. He added that DSWD never have sense of responsibility, even on mere facilitation.

Arnado also said that the DSWD had followed none among all those provisions contained in their memorandum of agreement (MOA). He added that they could not really expect the Aquino administration will ensure the welfare of the people.

"We are survivors of the natural calamities. But we remain victims of a greater disaster caused by fraud, militarization and exploitation," Arnado said, as its members urged the public to join them in the struggle of the peasantry.

DSWD regional director Priscilla Razon, in a separate interview, downplayed the claims of the protesters that the agency did not follow their agreement. She emphasized that the agreed 10,000 sacks of rice and other relief goods have already been distributed.

"In fact, tapos na last year ang ating relief assistance for victims of the typhoon Pablo. Nagtataka nga ako sa kanila ba’t hanggang ngayon naga-complain sila when all the needed relief assistance have been already complied," Razon said.

As to the claims about military encampments and human rights violations, Major General Ariel B. Bernardo, commander of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division, said he will check and investigate this information.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 27, 2014.

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