July 9, 2014 — EIGHT months after super typhoon Yolanda devastated Eastern Visayas, survivors and a women’s rights group picketed the Department of Social Welfare and Development to demand a full accounting of the foreign donations and P32 billion allocated by the government.
The protesters said they have not seen or felt where the funds went, and that survivors remained homeless, hungry and jobless in “dismal conditions” in bunkhouses and tent cities.
“Even as aid surged for Typhoon Yolanda victims, their situation eight months after the typhoon struck clearly indicates that these donations barely reached their intended recipients,” Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said. “Calls to audit all spending and donations have remained unheeded.”
Ilagan reiterated calls to audit the funds intended for the relief and rehabilitation of Yolanda-ravaged provinces.
“Despite government claims that P32 billion had already been released for post-Yolanda aid as of May 2014, the situation in Tacloban and other Yolanda-ravaged areas remains dismal and tragic. What happened to the funds?” Ilagan demanded.
Ilagan joined the survivors in picketing the gates of the DSWD as they demanded the release of the promised P40,000 livelihood aid for typhoon victims.
The protesters chastised the Aquino government for the unabated corruption amid such neglect of typhoon victims.
“To date we have not seen any document that accounts for what has been spent for typhoon victims and their rehabilitation. No inventory or audit has been made public. All we see are temporary and weak bunkhouses, barely rehabilitated schools and public structures, massive unemployment and distress,” the protesters said in a statement.
Ilagan said the call to audit Yolanda donations and disbursements becomes even more urgent and imperative amid the mess created by Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), parts of which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
“We now know that President Aquino and his spending cohorts Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. have this penchant for realigning billions in public funds to pet projects and provinces,” Ilagan said.
“The typhoon victims’ demands are beyond aid, beyond rehabilitation. They demand justice. This means making those responsible for the slow reconstruction and rehabilitation, accountable,” Ilagan said.
The victims of different calamities led by Tulong Kabataan Volunteer Network and People Surge (Alliance for Yolanda Victims) said that while majority of the victims suffer from government neglect, President Benigno Aquino III and his allies were “busy scraping off millions of pesos of funds illegally rechanneled to ‘projects of immediate concern’.”
“Someone must answer for this. It is impossible that Abad did not know that the DAP was illegal since he used to be with the House committee on appropriations,” said Jonas Aclado, spokesman of Tulong Kabataan. “And Aquino must also be held accountable because now it is clear that what he was doing with public funds was illegal.”
Aclado said the victims demanded that enough budget be allotted to disaster preparedness and risk reduction, as well as quick response, relief operations, and rehabilitation and livelihood projects.
In the House, Reps. Gus Tambunting of Parañaque, Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP party-list and Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada party-list supported Ilagan’s call for an audit of Yolanda donations.
“There is really an urgent need for the government to make a full accounting on funds intended for Yolanda victims. Those are public funds. Hence, accountability and transparency should be required from different agencies,” Tambunting, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said.
Bello, a member of the House minority bloc, said “it was incumbent on all government agencies which received foreign and domestic aid or donations to account for them.”
Apart from the Yolanda funds, De la Cruz said that the Aquino government should account for every centavo of the DAP.
“The administration should really make an accounting of all funds and assets entrusted to it from the donation to the budgets, including DAP,” De la Cruz said.
In Tacloban City, hundreds of survivors remain in tent cities, bunkhouses and schools, Efleda Bautista, convenor of a storm victims group, People Surge. - Manila Standard Today