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MANILA, Philippines - Authorities condemned the looting of relief goods on Tuesday by victims of typhoon "Pablo" in Davao City, and blamed militants for prodding the protesters.
But militant groups turned the tables on them and demanded that Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman be held liable for “hoarding” the relief goods and failing to set up an efficient, humane mechanism for ensuring these go to the victims. The latter complained they had not received anything since December even though reports are saying the relief goods keep coming in.
Also on Wednesday, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, who is running for the Senate, quashed earlier insinuations that he was among those who egged the crowd to trespass DSWD premises and ransack the warehouse.
Casino said he was campaigning in Davao at that time, and had heard of the victims’ complaints several times in the past. So when he heard a crowd was massing up outside DSWD, he checked out the situation. The unrest deepened because people got frustrated when no one from DSWD faced them. “No official bothered to talk to the victims; instead, only policemen were sent to deal with them,” Casino lamented in an interview with DWIZ’s morning show “Karambola.”
From interviews on the ground, Casino said he learned that DSWD had imposed an unreasonably tedious process for victims to comply with before they get aid. This was an “emergency for which you cannot impose so many preconditions as people starve or get sick,” the congressman said.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the 10th Infantry Division, called the incident an act of "uncivilized, uneducated people" that should not be tolerated.
About 2,000 people led by the group Barug Katawhan and militant groups Kadamay, Anakbayan, Anakpawis and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas ransacked the DSWD office in Davao City on Tuesday and attempted to take away hundreds of boxes of relief goods before police stopped them.
Paniza said the relief goods were not intended for Pablo victims but for victims of tropical depression "Crising" which hit Mindanao recently, by way of explaining why the Pablo victims were not getting them.He Paniza blamed militant groups, saying they provoked residents in looting the DSWD office.
He said, "Hindi lang ngayon ginamit nung una pa, nung hinarang nila ang Montevista, ang nilabas nilang sitwasyon ay mamimigay daw si (Sarangani Representative and boxing champ Manny) Pacquiao ng pera, so ginulo nila yung tao, niloko nila, imagine pa ha, ikaw na nga yung naapektuhan ng bagyong Pablo, ikaw pa yung niloko. That's too much."
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima said it is the people of Compostela Valley who are on the losing end. He said militants were unable to present a list of victims that was being requested by the DSWD.
"[They might have had plans of giving these goods to other people who are not victims. Or to sell them. We don’t know their motive, but they are using these people for their own ends, and I pity these people from ComVal," Purisima said in a separate interview.
Cops mauled journalist – NUJP
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) accused Davao City policemen of mauling a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the violent protest at the DSWD office.
The NUJP said Karlos Manlupig, a photojournalist, was hit on the head, arms and other parts of the body by at least six policemen during the dispersal.
Manlupig said he was approached by the policemen as he was interviewing a protester and was accused of being biased for taking photos only of the protesters. Manlupig then identified himself as a member of the press and tried to assure the policemen that he had gotten their side but was ignored.
Nico Alconaba, PDI Mindanao Bureau Chief, condemned what he called a deliberate attack on the press.
"The policemen had no right to physically assault a member of the press who is only doing his job," he said.
Pamalakaya asks DOJ to probe, charge Soliman
Groups led by Anakpawis partylist and fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) are urging the Department of Justice (DoJ) to investigate and file criminal and administrative raps against DSWD Secretary Soliman for withholding 10,000 sacks of rice allegedly intended for thousands of victims of typhoon Pablo in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
In a joint press statement, Anakpawis party-list vice chairperson Fernando Hicap and Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France appealed to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to mount a full-blown inquiry on allegations of Pablo victims that Soliman had intentionally made it difficult for them to get relief from DSWD by imposing a tedious process and round-the-clock check up.
Hicap and France said Soliman's decision to make the process of getting relief goods is long, bureaucratic and dangerous to survivors of typhoon Pablo is a crime against humanity.
"People are starving to death, but here is the secretary of DSWD resorting to political blackmail and 24 hour black propaganda against survivors of typhoon Pablo and their allies.Secretary Soliman last month announced the delivery of 10,000 sacks of rice after survivors and protesters put up a roadblock along the main highway of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in protest of the slow delivery of relief goods in Pablo-devastated areas.