DAVAO CITY—Survivors of Typhoon “Pablo” from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental stormed the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), forcing its gates open, jumping over its walls and taking off with sacks and boxes of relief goods on Tuesday.
Led by the group Barug Katawhan, at least 3,000 protesters started to camp outside the DSWD compound on Monday to demand “genuine relief and rehabilitation services” from the government.
Karlos Trangia, the group’s spokesperson, said the people were there to demand the immediate release of the 10,000 sacks of rice promised by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman during a roadblock in Montevista last Jan. 15.
The release of the rice, however, was rejected by DSWD after the group failed to provide a list of names of beneficiaries.
“No one from DSWD made an attempt to talk to us. We are already hungry that is why the people decided to take what is ours,” Trangia said.
Trangia said the people took 52 sacks of rice, 820 sacks of assorted goods, 78 boxes of coffee, 593 boxes of noodles, 13 boxes of soap, 34 boxes of canned sardines, 10 boxes of envelopes and a box of biscuits.
Nonoy, a 42-year-old farmer from Compostela town, said the raid was an initial gain for the typhoon survivors.
“We are not beggars. We are only claiming these items that are allocated and donated for us. But this is only a small achievement. These items would only help us survive for a couple of days. What we need is a sustained delivery of relief services,” Nonoy said.
Truncheon-wielding policemen, accompanied by heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics teams, rushed to the DSWD compound minutes after the residents started the raid.
There was a brief scuffle. Senior Supt. Ronald dela Rosa, city police chief, appealed to both policemen and protesters to remain calm.
In a phone interview, Soliman condemned the raid. “What they are doing is not helping. We have done everything to help them,” Soliman said.
She said she will hold the leaders of the groups in the raid accountable. “They are using this for propaganda,” said Soliman.
“If they are hungry, they must include their names on the list in our regional office and we will go to their houses to deliver the relief items,” Soliman added.
Trangia, however, said no one at DSWD tried to even talk to them. “There are no help desks or lists for us,” Trangia said.
He said what the people did was not stealing but only taking their share of the people’s money.
“Why are they not giving these items to us? We are victims of Pablo. We are suffering. We are hungry,” Trangia said. Karlos Manlupig and Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao
Originally posted at 01:52 pm | Tuesday, February 26, 2013