Roxas evasive on ‘Yolanda’ queries
ILOILO CITY—If there’s one topic that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas apparently won’t be comfortable discussing, it could be about how government had been faring in its effort to help the millions of people who lost homes and livelihood to Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).
Roxas, who is now going around the country following his endorsement by President Aquino as administration standard-bearer, refused to answer questions on problems in the distribution of government funding assistance to Yolanda survivors.
He, however, continued to woo mayors in the Visayas to support his presidential bid.
Asked to comment on problems being encountered in the distribution of funds under the so-called Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA), Roxas replied to a reporter of broadcast network ABS-CBN: “Well, what agency is supposed to (know about the problems)?”
When the reporter replied that ESA was a Department of Social Welfare and Development program, Roxas raised his hands and said “What is my agency?”
It took all of 17 seconds for Roxas to end the interview, thanking the reporters who tried to ambush him and leaving the room.
ESA is a program that offers P30,000 for each family who lost its home to Yolanda and P10,000 for each family who need to repair its home.
Roxas tried to keep his composure, though, smiling all throughout but refusing to entertain any more questions. His allies said he was in a hurry to proceed to Bacolod City.
On Friday, Roxas met with officials of Negros Occidental but his handlers tried to keep media at bay.
He briefly answered questions on the Negros Island Region but ended the interview when he was asked about Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez who was not in the meeting.
As reporters pressed him for answers, his security people formed a cordon around him until he finally said: “You’ll have to ask him. I don’t know.”
Benitez is the fourth richest member of the House of Representatives and has considerable political clout in Negros and in Congress.
Benitez was absent when President Aquino endorsed Roxas as the Liberal Party standard-bearer in Club Filipino and a meeting with officials a few days later.
Roxas was among several Cabinet members sent by President Aquino to Tacloban City in Leyte to oversee preparations days before Yolanda ravaged the Visayas areas on Nov. 8, 2013.
But in a meeting shortly after Yolanda struck, Roxas told Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City that Romualdez should “remember, the President is an Aquino and you are a Romualdez,” referring to the rivalry between the Aquino family and the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda Romualdez.
Roxas was roundly criticized for the statement, which apparently was the interior secretary’s way of telling Romualdez to let the national government take over aid and recovery efforts in Tacloban.
After Yolanda made landfall, Roxas also visited Iloilo province and other areas that suffered the brunt of the 300-kilometers-per-hour storm, along with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, assuring survivors of government help.
Regi Adosto, the ABS-CBN reporter who asked the question about ESA on Thursday, told the Inquirer that he was trying to get Roxas to comment on reports that several local government and other officials were interfering with the distribution of ESA. With a report from Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas
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