DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 Feb) — Boarding at least 20 buses, typhoon Pablo survivors under Barug Katawhan left the city Thursday victorious after an agreement was reached with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Wednesday night, ending a three-day protest at the agency’s regional office here.
They brought home an initial 100 sacks of rice from the DSWD and 220 more sacks donated by concerned citizens who did not want to be named.
Other anonymous donors gave them P20,000 worth of bread and water, and cash worth P50,000, intended to purchase rice.
As part of the February 27 agreement with the DSWD, the two persons who were detained at the Sta. Ana police station for allegedly throwing stones at the police on Wednesday, were released at the Davao City Police Office at 3:20 p.m. in the presence of lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and Bayan Muna second nominee, together with some leaders of Barug Katawhan.
Released were Daniel Pinang, 33 of Barangay Ngan in Compostela town, Compostela Valley province and Conrado Capili, Jr., 24 , of Barangay Upper Ulip in Monkayo town.
The protest action from Monday afternoon to Wednesday evening ended with the signing of a seven-point agreement after four hours of closed door negotiations.
The agreement, written in Cebuano, was signed by Karlos Trangia, Cirila Anding and Grace Corso of Barug Katawhan; and DSWD’s Assistant Secretary Camilo Gudmalin and OIC regional director Priscilla Razon.
But Barug s Katawhan pokesperson Trangia told reporters on Thursday that they felt shortchanged by the agreement, particularly because instead of sustained relief operations for six months, it would only be for four months.
The third point in the agreement states that “the relief operation will continue within six months starting December 2012 until June 2013.”
Trangia said it is supposed to be until August should the counting begin in March.
He explained that they agreed nonetheless because the negotiations took long, they were hungry and under stress.
The DSWD had earlier assured residents in the areas devastated by Pablo of continued relief assistance for six months from December.
ABS-CBN News online quoted Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman as saying Thursday that the DSWD is “committed to go beyond June 2013 if necessary but the agency strives to ‘normalize’ the lives of the victims so as not to rely on food packs in a very long period of time by helping provide jobs.”
He said the quantity of the relief goods to be distributed was not also stated in the agreement although in separate interviews after the signing last Wednesday, Gudmalin and Trangia said the 100 sacks they were bringing home from the DSWD would be deducted from the 10,000 sacks that Barug and Soliman had agreed upon during the former’s barricade along the national highway in Montevista town in Compostela Valley province on January 15.
Summing up their sacrifices and pains, Trangia said the agreement was a small victory but they won in terms of people’s power> Through unity and militancy, the DSWD finally faced them, he said.
Among the points agreed upon was that both parties agreed to validate every purok/sitio of a barangay to determine if there are residents who have not received enough relief goods and that the validation will be done together by Barug, Balsa Mindanao, provincial and barangay local government units and the DSWD regional office.
He said they agreed to accomplish the validation and distribution of relief goods as soon as possible, without specifying a timeline.
Barug had earlier submitted to the DSWD regional office a distribution plan for the 10,000 sacks, covering eight towns in Compostela Valley province, three towns in Davao Oriental, one town in Davao del Norte and three towns in Agusan del Sur.
The plan provides for the repacking of the 10,000 sacks into packs of 10 kilos each for distribution to 50,000 residents in these areas.
Soliman had repeatedly said the DSWD would release the 10,000 sacks when the conditions agreed upon on January 15 were met, including the submission of a distribution list. No distribution list has been submitted.
Before returning home, the protesters marched on Thursday morning along Leon Garcia Street from the Assumption College of Davao at Cabaguio Avenue where they spent the night, to fetch the detained Pinang and Capili at the Sta Ana police station.
But before reaching the police station, hundreds of policemen blocked their way at Leon Garcia, Monteverde, and Sta. Ana Streets. The protesters were trapped in front of the barangay hall and the Medical Mission Group Hospital.
Policemen barricaded with their shields and mobile patrol cars, while a firetruck was also used to block the road and snipers were spotted at the roof top of the Bureau of Fire Protection at corners Leon Garcia and Monteverde Streets.
Dela Rosa said the police will no longer be lenient to protest actions. “No permit, no rally,” he said.
He said the police blocked the protesters to prevent them from causing public disturbance.
He assured protesters two detainees would be released in accordance with the Feb. 27 agreement.
The protesters later boarded around 20 buses bound for their respective hometowns.
In as statement, Zarate said that if the DSWD had addressed the issues raised by the protesters when they arrived Monday afternoon, the violence that happened last Tuesday and Wednesday might have been prevented.
“The people were there and waited for the DSWD for a dialogue, but nobody from the agency approached them to resolve the issues. As servants of the people, the DSWD officials were the ones supposed to go to the Pablo victims and negotiate with them,” he said.
Witnessing the Tuesday dispersal himself, he said he and some religious leaders tried to bridge the two parties and establish line of communication to no avail.
Gudmalin told reporters Wednesday night that the DSWD regional office tried to have a dialogue with the protesters since Monday but could not find the leaders.
He said he received an order from Secretary Soliman last Tuesday to proceed here to attend to the issues raised by the protesters. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)