MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Social Welfare and Development vowed on Wednesday to take legal action against a coalition of militant groups that raided its regional office in Davao City, resulting in the senseless destruction of government properties and the stealing of relief goods intended for tropical depression “Crising” victims.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said she was deeply saddened by the abuse committed by Barug Katawhan and its supporters.
In the morning of February 26, members of Barug Katawhan and allied groups bearing the banners of Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Kilusang Mayo Uno stormed the gate of the DSWD Region 11 office and forced their way inside the premises.
They carted off sacks of rice and cartons of sardines, and protesters even went up the second and third floors of the building, shouting and threatening DSWD employees.
Earlier, DSWD Regional Director Prescilla Razon invited the group to sit down for a dialogue. Tents were set up in front of the office for the rallyists, who were invited to register and be interviewed so that DSWD could respond to their needs.
However, the rallyists refused to hold the dialogue with the DSWD regional staff and instead blocked all the gates of the DSWD regional office.
The day before the skirmishes, about 300 people organized by Barug Katawhan started a picket where senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño addressed the group.
On January 15, 2013, the Barug Katawhan also blocked the national highway of Compostela Valley, prompting Soliman to negotiate with their leaders and agreed to provide 10,000 sacks of rice to people who have been deprived of government service, according to Barug Katawhan.
Soliman said the sacks of rice would be made available upon the submission by Barug Katawhan of the list of beneficiaries, their places of residence, the distribution plan and persons from Barug Katawhan with whom the DSWD would coordinate.
To date, however, despite consistent requests for the distribution list, Barug Katawhan has failed to provide the list of beneficiaries. What was submitted to DSWD was a list of repacking areas and the names of people who agreed to have these places used as distribution site.
Soliman said the DSWD has checked with at least two of those in the alleged list, and they denied that they agreed to have their places used as repacking areas.
DSWD remains committed to serving the victims of the typhoon Pablo and the qualified beneficiaries of government programs in Region XI, according to Soliman.
The DSWD-Davao said it would continue to hold dialogues and coordinate with Barug Katawhan and the groups they represent, and was just waiting for the distribution list, which they would validate and assess to ensure the delivery of relief to all families in need of help
“We are very saddened by these acts of aggression directed at our Field Office, as well as our personnel. DSWD has been faithfully serving all sectors affected by the calamity,” Soliman said,
“Our people work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide much-needed services. We respond to the exigency of public service at great cost to ourselves and our families. That we are now being subjected to harassment is deplorable,” she added.
The DSWD Secretary appealed to the leadership of Barug Katawhan and its allied groups not to use the people for their own political agenda.
“We are willing to resolve these issues, and serve those who are in need. We need not engage in counter-productive propaganda war,” Soliman stressed.