Politics of assistance
Before we condemn Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. for driving away Red Cross volunteers who were just doing their job delivering relief goods to quake victims in his area, let’s hear his reasoning (excuses? alibis?) first.
In justifying his actions, the mayor insisted that his administration already had a centralized distribution system in place run by barangay representatives.
Evasco said he was insulted by a Red Cross worker, whom he accused of arrogantly asking him where the beneficiaries are so they could give the relief goods to them.
The mayor also complained that the Red Cross demanded to get a list of benificiaries before they operate. For the mayor, any help given shouldn’t come with “conditions”.
Arrogance or not, the mayor could have reprimanded the volunteer and told him to jump in the lake while allowing the rest of the Red Cross team to do their job.
We have a disheartening clash between local and national government agencies, whose representatives insist on following their system in helping earthquake victims.
Since when is humanitarian aid an exlusive task?
Based on reports of affected residents and rescue workers who are trying to help them, the Oct. 28 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections have polluted the way the distribution of the relief goods is being conducted in some parts of Bohol province. Some barangay officials want to channel the aid to a favored few and claim credit for others.
This is similar to the 2011 Sendong flood tragedy when the Cagayan de Oro City government insisted that all relief aid go through them when it was the archdiocese and the private sector who took the lead in helping the flood survivors.
While the national government has partly helped restore power and water supply in quake-battered areas of Bohol, it should now be good partners with the private sector in ensuring that relief goods reach the beneficiaries.
There just are not enough government social workers to do these tasks.
Partnership means skipping over credit-grabbers and hoarding. It means sharing information. It involves all volunteers and agencies of goodwill performing 100 percent for public service.
It is a double tragedy for Bohol to have ego-driven politicians and clever operators who hop from one relief center to another as repeat beneficiaries.
In times of disaster, the operative word is service and not exploitation.
Mayor Evasco may have lost his cool with the Red Cross but as a former renegade priest, he should be able to turn the other cheek, agree on the terms of distribution and cooperate in getting much-needed help for his people in Maribojoc.