DSWD yields to protesters’ demand for 10,000 sacks of rice for Pablo victims

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Jan) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development has responded to protesters’ call in Montevista, Compostela Valley that the government should supply Typhoon Pablo victims with 10,000 sacks of rice.

On Tuesday, some 5,000 protesters reportedly blocked the highway at Montevista, Compostela Valley (ComVal) through a human barricade to hold the government accountable for the tragedy brought by typhoon Pablo. The protesters, who reportedly come from Monkayo, Nabunturan, Compostela and Montevista in ComVal and Baganga, Cateel and Trento in Davao Oriental, also demanded for sustained relief and genuine rehabilitation from the government.

But Priscilla N. Razon, DSWD-11 officer-in-charge, said at the regular Club 888 media forum at The Marco Polo Davao today that her office will provide the 10,000 sacks of rice on certain conditions.

She said the DSWD is asking for a distribution plan from the protesters, led by Barug Katawhan (organization of victims of typhoon Pablo).

The distribution plan, she said, must contain information such as where to distribute the rice, who will receive them, when will the distribution be, and who will be accountable for the rice, among others.

Razon said the social workers from the DSWD provincial and municipal offices should be present in every distribution. Barug Katawhan will provide reports on the distributions.

She stressed that it should be acknowledged that the assistance came from the government during the distribution.

Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which was one of the supporters of the protest, said in a text message Wednesday Barug Katawhan leader Karlos Tranghiya received a document from the provincial staff of DSWD during the barricade.

She said the paper was an agreement between the group and DSWD, signed by Secretary Corazon Soliman, stating the conditions for the release of rice.

“We can assure that we can provide the requirements,” Duazo said. She added that it is better for DSWD to prepare the 10,000 sacks now.

While waiting for the distribution plan, Razon said the DSWD will continue its relief operations which will extend up to the next three months before it will start its emergency shelter assistance.

Razon told reporters the protesters were only trying to get the attention of the public. Their issues, she said, were probably legitimate but she does not approve of the means the issues were raised.

Reacting to the DSWD official’s statement, Duazo said the protest was people-led and food is a legitimate demand.

“Victory could not be achieved without the people asserting their rights,” she said.

Razon said every victim of Typhoon Pablo was served without discrimination as opposed to the protesters’ claim that there are still areas not yet reached by relief operations.

DSWD-11 cited that they have served a total of 130,038 families or 520,152 persons in ComVal, and 56,352 families or 225,408 persons in Davao Oriental, which were the hardest hit of Pablo.

The DSWD also claimed it has served 45,905 families or 183,620 persons in Davao del Norte, and 1,059 families or 4,236 persons in Davao del Sur.

Maj. Jake Obligado, chief of Civil Military Operations of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, also said at the media forum that the protest was apparently a propaganda campaign by the organizations behind it – Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakpawis, Kadamay and Karapatan.

Asked for a reaction, lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, Bayan Muna partylist second nominee, said in a text message, “Thousands of poor farmers and lumads who are in the brink of too much hunger, if not death, more than a month after Pablo, are not mere propaganda!”

For him, propaganda is “when government leaders try to mask its incompetence by high profile relief distribution photo ops while the hungry and poor Pablo victims are still insecure of their future after the last food pack is consumed.”

“What is propaganda is when officials play politics and use the relief program as part of its counter-insurgency campaign,” Zarate said. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)