Gabriela pushes for fact-finding mission in areas hit by Pablo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Feb) – Due to several complaints lodged by victims of typhoon Pablo, the Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP) will hold a fact-finding mission in areas affected by the calamity, Rep. Emmi de Jesus said in her visit here Monday.

“Every time the government implements programs, we always make sure that the funds are really spent for the project,” she said. In the case of the typhoon victims, she added, “If it is a housing project, we also want to know what kind of housing is it.”

De Jesus pointed out that their fact-finding mission will be a comprehensive one, which includes probing the design of the houses vis-à-vis the needs of the people.

She added that the probe will be pushed through amid the electoral campaign period. The campaign period for national candidates begins today February 12, and for local candidates, March 29.

“Women and children take the biggest share of the burden and impact of a disaster,” De Jesus told reporters.

She said the GWP has been closely following reports and complaints from women survivors on issues and irregularities in the government’s rehabilitation efforts for Pablo victims.

“This issue is not resolved as far as the women are concerned. We will press for a further probe on the bunkhouses and other corruption issues that may surface,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, Carlos Isagani Zarate, second nominee of Bayan Muna partylist, said in an interview the partylist will gather data on Pablo victims’ issues against the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other involved agencies.

The data, he added, will be used in the filing of House resolution calling for a congressional hearing.

Zarate said the closing of 15th Congress does not mean that the partylist will not continue its responsibility for the people, especially those affected by the typhoon.

He said they will probe the DSWD’s alleged overpricing of bunkhouses, including its suppliers, and demand for transparency from the agency, which “is supposed to be the frontline of providing relief and rehabilitation assistance.”

In an official statement dated February 4, the DSWD said the temporary shelters that are being constructed in Davao Oriental are not overpriced as compared to the bunkhouses being built by other groups, particularly the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The DSWD issued the statement after published news reports that the DSWD’s bunkhouse costs P550,000, while that of the IOM is only P259,653.

“We would like to emphasize that all transactions and activities of the regional office on the construction of the bunkhouses are supported by documents which are submitted to the Commission on Audit for post-audit,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.

“Rest assured that should there be findings of irregularities, the DSWD management will deal with this accordingly upholding the tenets of full accountability and transparency,” she added.

Leaders of the Barug Katawhan (People Rise Up), a movement of Pablo victims in the region, held Tuesday a protest rally outside the DSWD-11 office, calling for Soliman’s ouster.

Some 100 Barug members staged a noise barrage by pounding on the gate of the DSWD regional office here to protest against the agency’s alleged corruption, overpriced bunkhouses, and other irregularities in the relief operations.

The demonstration ended without any confrontation with the DSWD officials. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)