Way too low-A A +A
Slice of Life
Thursday, February 28, 2013
IT STARTED with the filing of a case against the victims of typhoon Pablo who protested the lack of distribution of relief goods in their area and demanded for an end to large scale mining and illegal logging activities.
Their protests irked the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) who was probably inconvenienced with being stranded in the traffic. What came next was for the protesters to be charged with unlawful appearance, public disturbance and obstruction of traffic under the Revised Penal Code.
What may be a legitimate form of expressing dissent for the typhoon survivors was taken as an unruly act by government officials and CSOs sympathetic to DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman. Complaints of corruption and the way that the relief and rehabilitation activities were done have been relegated to the background as these groups wanted to push for proper forum and timing to ventilate the concerns. Not now. Not in that way.
It did not stop there though. Down to the path, the usual red baiting and vilification of progressive groups continued. It did not occur to the public that turfing on relief work and distribution can creep into the ranks of CSOs and NGOs.
Up until now, it has become unbearable for the public to hear testimonies and complaints on the list of beneficiaries of DSWD’s cash-for-work program in the towns of Cateel, Davao Oriental, Monkayo and Compostela Valley which allegedly contain ghost names. Signed documents reveal that beneficiaries have received P50,000 in assistance while interviews with those affected say that they only received a measly amount.
Similarly, bunkhouses built by the agency are said to cost 550,000 each while those built by a non-government organization only cost P200,000. Many of the survivors only receive relief packs twice for the last two months and that some DSWD personnel may have forged the signature of laborers who worked under the cash for work program and have resorted to selling relief packs.
Protesters also complained about the refusal of DSWD to release 10,000 sacks of rice committed by the Secretary during the negotiations to end the Jan. 15 barricade.
On February 26, a day after the Edsa people’s power was commemorated, protesters who trooped to the DSWD Regional Office in Davao City were violently dispersed on account of the order from Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for the police to “retrieve the goods at all cost.”
Some things could have been avoided. Government agencies, including the local government unit, could have facilitated dialogue with the protesters. CSOs and NGOs, both strong advocates to the value of peaceful negotiation could have taken a step forward rather than sticking with their own monologues and positions.
The courageous thing for DSWD is to face the complaints squarely and acknowledge that lapses may have indeed been committed in the relief and rehabilitation work for the typhoon survivors. The most peaceful track for CSOs and NGOs is to do their task of facilitating development and relief, including monitoring rehabilitation work rather than become a mouthpiece of government officials.
Unless there is humility to accept that disaster response could be better improved and the courage to stop acting like little tin gods, all of the clutter and noise will continue. And while each group position themselves defensively, typhoon survivors will continue to batter inefficiency and corruption.
Meantime, we may still have to hear some lines that say, “if indeed they have nothing to eat, why were they able to storm their way to the DSWD.” Indeed, there are things best left unsaid and some things cannot be undone. In some instances, some can get way too low.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 01, 2013.