Typhoon victims want probe of ‘overpriced’ bunkhouses

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 February) — Victims of typhoon Pablo from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental wanted an investigation on the alleged “overpricing” of bunkhouses built by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), leaders of Barug Katawhan said in a press conference here Friday.

The group cited published reports that each bunkhouse built by DSWD costs P550,000, while the ones made by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) cost only P200,000 each.

Karlos Trangia, spokesperson of Barug, said the DSWD should be investigated for the alleged overpricing of P350,000 of each unit.

But in an interview at her office, DSWD-11 regional director Priscilla Razon said a team from Manila had already conducted a two-day investigation on the issue.

She said the team flew back to Manila noon Friday after reviewing documents and interviewing victims in Pablo-hit areas.

“They found no irregularity,” Razon told reporters.

Citing the bunkhouse in San Rafael, Cateel in Davao Oriental, which was reportedly built on a cemented basketball court, she said the construction materials provided did not include those that were supposed to be used for the flooring.

She said every municipality has a centralized warehouse for all construction materials, adding that excess materials meant for the San Rafael bunkhouse were added to that in San Alfonso.

San Alfonso is a swampy area that needs to be filled up with soil, and the thickness of the concrete floor of each bunkhouse was made eight inches instead of the usual four inches.

“We called the engineer of the IOM,” she said, citing that it turned out in the probe that the IOM’s bunkhouse costs higher by P50,000 to P60,000 than that of the DSWD.

IOM’s engineer did not give details about the cost, and the IOM’s bunkhouse has no toilet, kitchen and shower room, Razon said.

She added the DSWD included the electrical system in its costing.

She said some of IOM’s bunkhouses were built near those of the DSWD so that those living in them may share with the amenities provided by the agency.

On the question of at least 20 soldiers who built the San Rafael bunkhouse, Razon said they were not hired for the DSWD’s cash-for-work program.

But she said the DSWD gave them P30,000 as food allowance for 15 working days.

She said they have a copy of the acknowledgement receipt signed by their commander.

Trangia said the typhoon victims not the military should have been tapped for the construction of bunkhouses as they are the ones who need more food and relief assistance.

Bello Tindasan, Barug’s farmer sector leader, said the residents feared the military’s participation in the rehabilitation program might be used for counterinsurgency.

“We have received threats from the military, saying that those who joined the barricade were members of the NPA (New People’s Army),” he said in Cebuano.

Last January 15, some 5,000 Barug members barricaded the Montevista highway in Compostela Valley to protest the government’s handling of the relief work for the victims of Pablo.

Grace Curso, Barug’s women sector leader, said Barug represents the “real” voices of the victims and that they will investigate themselves any complaint related to the government’s relief and rehabilitation program.

The Barug leaders said they have a “grievance hotline” – 09497697407 – for issues related to the ongoing relief and rehabilitation work.

“Anyone may contact this number any time and we will immediately respond to help in addressing the needs and concerns of Pablo victims,” Trangia said. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)