Sellers, buyers of relief goods for Zambo ‘bakwits’ warned

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/06 August) – The local government warned it will file criminal charges against persons who will be caught either selling or buying relief goods intended evacuees in this city.

Ma. Socorro Rojas, head of City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), issued the warning Wednesday after the World Food Programme and camp managers reported that some enterprising individuals were buying rice from evacuees covered by the food-for-work program jointly initiated by the WFP and the Food and Livelihood Cluster.

The program beneficiaries would get a sack of rice for a one-week work.

Rojas said the report disclosed that each sack of rice containing 50 kilograms was sold at P1,200 to P1,700 and the purchase was done through bidding.

She said buying for consumption or resale of relief goods is prohibited under Section 19 of Republic Act 10121 otherwise known as the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.”

She said violators face a fine of at least P50,000 but not more than P500,000 or imprisonment of at least six years and one day or more than 12 years or both, at the discretion of the Court, including perpetual disqualification from public office if the offender is a public officer, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of the objects and instrumentalities used in committing any of the prohibited acts.

Rojas said representatives from concerned agencies will conduct inspection at the markets and other areas where the sale and resale of rice and other relief goods were reportedly taking place.

“We discourage the public to buy rice intended for IDPs (internally displaced persons) as this is not allowed under existing law,” she added.

City agriculturist Diosado Palacat said in a phone interview Wednesday that a batch of “bakwits” is receiving their rice payment this week.

Palacat said the rice payment this week is for the “bakwits” housed at the sports complex that availed of the food-for-work program last week.

Palacat heads the Food and Livelihood cluster of the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction.

He said another batch of at least 2,000 families from the R.T. Lim Boulevard or “Cawa-Cawa” and sports complex areas is set to avail the food-for-work program next week.

He said each family that works through the food-for-work program receives a sack of 50 kilos rice as salary.

He said they are tasked to undertake cleanup drive and maintain cleanliness at the Cawa-Cawa and sports complex areas where thousands of “Bakwits” are still housed.

He added that the food-for-work program previously involved river cleanup and mangrove planting. (MindaNews)