DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 February) – The regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development has stood pat on its decision not to release additional rice assistance to the victims of typhoon Pablo without a list of recipients and their exact addresses.
DSWD-XI had earlier committed to provide an additional 10,000 bags of rice after members of Barug Katawhan (People Rise Up), an organization of typhoon victims, staged a barricade protesting the way government had handled relief efforts.
Barug submitted Thursday to the DSWD-XI a distribution plan for the additional rice assistance and a list of storage areas but not a list of recipients.
Barug leader Karlos Trangia said in an interview a distribution list is not necessary as the recipients will be listed during the distribution with the presence of DSWD personnel.
But Ma. Vilia L. Vigil, DSWD-11 assistant regional director for operations, told the group’s members that such list is important as stated in a document the Barug leaders acknowledged.
She told the members she will refer their concerns to DSWD-XI regional director Priscilla Razon who was in another meeting, and that they should expect a decision by Monday.
Razon said Friday the decision was non-negotiable so as to avoid redundancy and giving aid to false recipients.
Trangia said most of the target recipients had received assistance but only once a month.
Some 5,000 Barug members barricaded the highway in Montevista, Compostela Valley last January 15 to protest the government’s alleged failure to provide relief assistance in far-flung areas.
DSWD secretary Corazon Soliman negotiated with the protesters and committed on the same day to provide them 10,000 bags of rice under certain conditions.
Aside from providing a distribution plan, Barug agreed to provide a distribution list, storage areas and names of responsible persons. They also agreed to submit a report after each distribution, which has to be witnessed by DSWD personnel.
Trangia argued that they refrained from listing the names of recipients to avoid harassment from security forces.
He claimed some village captains and leaders spread word around that those who joined the barricade would not be given relief assistance and would be delisted as conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiaries.
Razon said the victims have nothing to fear if they believe that their demands are legitimate.
She pointed out that nobody, not even a governor or any other government official, can delist a beneficiary from the CCT program or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
“There’s no truth to that,” she stressed.
The Pablo victims may stage another protest action should they continue to suffer from hunger, Trangia told reporters.
He said the 10,000 sacks of rice are not enough to address the hunger of the people in Pablo-hit areas.
He also complained about the cash-for-work program of the government, saying the relief assistance should be given to the victims without conditions.
The people need food for sustenance while rehabilitating their farms and houses, he added.
Razon said that while the government cannot prevent the victims from expressing their views, the DSWD will stick to its policy not to release the additional rice assistance without a distribution list. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)