Aquino back in Bohol, skips Maribojoc | Inquirer News

Aquino back in Bohol, skips Maribojoc

/ 02:12 AM October 24, 2013

LOON, Bohol—President Aquino flew back to quake-ravaged Bohol on Wednesday but chose to visit evacuees in Loon town instead of the adjacent Maribojoc, whose mayor has been under fire for driving away Red Cross volunteers for refusing to hand over relief goods to the municipality.

Although Maribojoc, along with Loon, was among the worst-hit areas, it was not part of the President’s itinerary.

Aquino and some Cabinet secretaries arrived in Loon at 5:45 p.m. and proceeded to Loon South Central School to distribute 180 relief goods to 166 families staying in the evacuation center.


Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr., who belongs to the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), told the Inquirer that he was not told of the President’s visit to the province. But if Aquino decides to go to his town, Evasco said he would welcome him.


He reiterated that he did nothing wrong when he told Philippine Red Cross (PRC) volunteers to leave, saying that centralizing the distribution of relief goods was his way of maintaining order and ensuring that all the 27 villages in the town would receive their share.

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15 killed at least 195 people in Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor. Of this figure, 182 were recorded in Bohol, data from the provincial command center showed, while 557 were hurt.

Twelve were still missing, including five children who were trapped under 9 meters of mud, rocks and branches at the foot of Bayong Falls. Rescue operations were hampered by lack of heavy equipment.

Level of distrust

In Manila, lawmakers said the encounter between Evasco and the Red Cross team only showed that nongovernment organizations (NGOs) did not trust politicians in the distribution of relief goods.

“The level of trust in politicians has ebbed rock-bottom, especially after the Commission on Audit report on stolen pork barrel funds came out,” Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao said, referring to the state agency’s findings of apparent misuse by several lawmakers of millions of pesos in taxpayer money.


“Politicians should have no business meddling other than maintaining security and order. Red Cross and the other charitable NGOs are thoroughly adept at doing humanitarian work; they don’t need to be told by politicians what to do,” Aggabao said in a text message.

He proposed that the Red Cross and other NGOs be allowed to spearhead the distribution of goods donated to them.

In Bohol, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas ordered the police to watch out for hoarding of relief goods and to check if the aid is reaching the intended beneficiaries.

Roxas told President Aquino during the briefing that reports of local officials hoarding relief goods were being verified.

But he did not identify the towns or the officials involved in hoarding relief goods.

He said he would ask the Commission on Elections if village officials were authorized to distribute relief goods.

At Loon Central School, Aquino tried to ease the fears of the evacuees as rumors spread that the entire province would eventually sink. He said there was no truth to the rumors and that the strong earthquake would not happen again.

To prove this, he said, he would spend the night inside a tent set up for him and his party, including Social Welfare Dinky Soliman, Roxas and Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, in an open field in Loon.

The President also told the evacuees that he was in touch with people on the ground to ensure that their needs were met.

From the public market, Aquino went to the ruins of the Our Lady of Light Parish Church to check on the plight of about 600 evacuees and to distribute relief goods.

He later visited Congressman Natalio Castillo Memorial Hospital, which was also destroyed. Patients have been staying in makeshift tents at the hospital’s open basketball court.

The President proceeded to the municipal hall for a briefing by local officials. At least 100 evacuees crammed inside the hall.

On Thursday, Aquino is expected to visit Tubigon and Sagbayan towns before leaving the province at 3 p.m.

Damage cost: P3.5B

In a meeting on Tuesday night, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said the temblor destroyed or damaged P3.5 billion in infrastructure, public and private structures and churches.

Damage to churches was pegged at P1.2 billion; infrastructure, P891 million; municipal halls, P551 million; and hospitals, P504 million.

Reacting to the Maribojoc face-off, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said Mayor Evasco acted like “a mafia kingpin trying to control the flow of resources into his territory.”

“The fact that he was willing to sacrifice the interests of his constituents by telling the Red Cross to leave in order to maintain his monopolistic control underlines this. Politicians like him are the reason there’s a great deal of distrust in politicians nowadays,” Bello said.

“Between him and the Red Cross, I would give the Red Cross 100-percent credibility and he, zero,” Bello said.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said the refusal of the Red Cross team to hand over the relief goods to Evasco indicated a lack of confidence that local government officials would do a better job of handing out the food and medicine packs more equitably and swiftly.

Barzaga explained that mayors had a more systematic and centralized system of relief distribution.

“But we cannot blame either side because abuses in these dole-outs are common. The Red Cross has its reasons, the mayor has his reasons. The mayor will be the one left in his town and explain why some of his constituents were deprived of help, especially if the Red Cross missed out on some of the victims,” he said.—With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan in Manila



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Aquino returns to Bohol to distribute relief goods, to stay in tent

TAGS: Bohol, Earthquake

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