DAVAO CITY – Angry typhoon-affected residents protested at the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development here on Tuesday to call for the ouster of Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman for the “corruption and inept implementation” of relief and rehabilitation operations in areas devastated by typhoon Pablo (international code name Bopha).
“The DSWD has already proven itself to be corrupt and inept in implementing the relief and rehabilitation operations. At this point, the Aquino government itself is driving the 6.2 million Pablo victims to rise up and struggle in order to survive,” Barug Katawhan, which also led the 10-hour roadblock in Montevista town in Compostela Valley last January 15, said in a press statement.
Karlos Trangia, Barug Katawhan spokesperson, also accused Soliman of “conniving” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its counter-insurgency campaign, using the relief and rehabilitation program.
Trangia added that Soliman should be made to answer for “mismanaging and corrupting the P18 billion-calamity fund and international aid.” He cited as basis for his allegations the fact that many Pablo survivors only received relief packs twice for the last two months.
He alleged that bunkhouses have been overpriced and ghost lists of beneficiaries were drawn up for the “cash-for-work” program in the towns of San Rafael and San Antonio in Cateel, Davao Oriental and in several villages in the towns of Monkayo and Compostela in Compostela Valley.
“We also received reports from the indigenous people in Baganga, Davao Oriental, about DSWD selling relief packs for P200. And residents have also reported that DSWD has forged the signatures of laborers who worked under the cash-for-work program,” Trangia said.
Soliman dismissed the call for her ouster and asked the protesters to provide basis for their allegations, saying that she would investigate their complaints if provided with more information.
“It would be good if they could give the details. I will have it investigated,” Soliman said.
Accusations, Soliman said, could be easily thrown but facts should still be presented to the public.
The protesters also complained about the refusal of DSWD to release 10,000 sacks of rice committed by Soliman during the negotiations to end the Jan. 15 barricade.
Soliman and the local government of Compostela Valley agreed to deliver 1,900 family packs and 100 sacks of rice in the roadblock and guaranteed an additional 10,000 sacks of rice after the barricade was lifted.
However, the DSWD also provided conditions for the release of the additional rice, including the submission of a distribution plan and distribution list.
“They have not given us any of the information that we need,” Soliman said.
Soliman explained that she could not order the release of the rice unless the requirements were complied by the protesters.
“I am accountable for that,” Soliman said.
Barug Katawhan explained that they were apprehensive about provide the names and addresses of those who joined the barricade because the list might end up in the hands of the police and military.
At least eight members and supporters of Barug Katawhan are presently facing charges for leading the barricade.