'Bohol mayor stopped relief distribution, wanted goods turned over to him' - Red Cross
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 3:11PM, Oct. 23) The Philippine Red Cross on Tuesday confirmed that the mayor of Maribojoc town in Bohol, one of the worst hit by last week's magnitude 7.2 earthquake, had stopped the emergency response organization's relief distribution because he wanted the goods turned over to the local government.
Earlier, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman had asked Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II to check reports of “relief hoarding” by local government officials down to the barangay level.
PRC secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said in a phone interview that on Friday, Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. approached a Red Cross team as it began handing out relief to afflicted residents and asked that the activity be stopped.
“Ang kuwento talaga, ‘yung team namin pumunta doon at alam ng local government unit na papunta kami doon. ‘Yung mga tao informed na rin at ng nag-umpisa na ‘yung distribution (The real story is, the local government knew that the team was going there. The people had also been informed and the distribution had started),” Pang said.
“Nakapila na ‘yung mga tao nang biglang pinahinto kami ni Mayor. Sabi nya sa isang tao namin, ‘Ikaw (The people had lined up already when Mayor asked us to stop. He told one of our personnel, ‘You), I’m very disappointed with you. I’m disappointed with the Red Cross’,” she said. “Ang sagot, ‘Bakit Mayor?’ Sabi niya, ‘Because ang gusto ko (The reply was, ‘Why Mayor?’ He said, ‘Because what I want is that) you endorse the goods to us and let us distribute the goods.”
Pang stressed that the Red Cross cannot endorse relief goods to politicians.
A private volunteer group that did relief work in Maribojoc, however, took up the cudgels for the mayor, who earlier defended himself by saying the Red Cross team simply entered the area without coordinating with local authorities in any way, and they simply wanted a more systematic and fair way of distributing goods, since people had suffered for days of being cut off. The private volunteers said the Bohol Red Cross officer brusquely rejected an appeal for coordination by insisting on a "no list, no relief goods" policy that at that time was hard to comply with, the quake having levelled many homes.
Pang had also noted the fact that politicians could be trying to exploit the situation because of the barangay elections on October 28.
However, the Commission on Elections has cancelled the village polls in Bohol, as it did in Zamboanga City, where tens of thousands of residents remain displaced and communities lie in ruins after the close to month-long standoff between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front.
Meanwhile, Roxas directed the mayors of Bohol to exercise their executive powers to help normalize the flow of trade and commerce, particularly retail sales of basic necessities.
“Inaatasan ko ang lahat ng mayors sa Bohol na gamitin ang lahat ng kapangyarihan na ibinigay sa kanila ng batas para siguruhin na magbubukas ang lahat ng tindahan na nagbebenta ng pagkain, tubig at gasoline (I am directing all mayors in Bohol to use all the powers given them by law to ensure that stores selling food, water and gasoline reopen),” Roxas said. “Walang dahilan para manatiling sarado ang mga tindahan, partikular iyong mga istruktura na matitibay at hindi nagiba ng lindol (There is no reason for stores to remain closed, especially strong structures not damaged by the earthquake).”
Roxas issued the order after the regional office of the Department of Trade and Commerce reported that a large number of retailers had yet to resume business amid mounting complaints that supplies of basic goods were running out.
The DTI office cited 12 gasoline stations that remained close as of Sunday although they had enough stocks of fuel.
Roxas said the mayors could revoke the business permits of establishments that refuse to open.
But an activist lawmakers who co-authored the recently enacted Republic Act 10623 is fuming mad at the administration for allegedly allowing the prices of vital supplies spiral out of control in the wake of the quake.
Republic Act 7581, or “An Act Providing Protection to Consumers by Stabilizing the Prices of Basic Necessities and Prime Commodities, and by Prescribing Measures Against Undue Price Increases During Emergency Situations and Like Occasions,” was signed only six weeks ago.
The statute mandates imposing price caps on supplies that tend to become scarce when calamity or other disruptive events strike.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Emmi De Jesus also scored President Benigno Aquino III for choosing to push through with his state visit to South Korea soon after the quake struck.
"When we filed the bill three years ago, the Gabriela Women’s Party wanted to protect consumers from the ravages of the Oil Deregulation Law, especially when a major disaster traps large communities in situations of shortages and price gouging,” De Jesus said.
“The price chaos in Bohol is just symptomatic of the deeper anti-people economic policies of the Aquino administration, and we should really push to block and defeat more laws and bills that end up inflicting suffering on our people. At the minimum, Gabriela will seek to start pushing to dismantle the Oil Deregulation Law to better our chances to protect consumers,” she added.