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'There is politicking in relief distribution' - Gazmin

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday revealed that there have been instances of politicking during the distribution of relief goods in typhoon-hit areas.

Speaking to the ABS-CBN News Channel, Gazmin described the politicking happening on the ground as “matindi” (strong).

“There was an example cited to us by an old lady. Before being given relief goods by the barangay captain, they were asked if they voted for the barangay captain,” the defense chief said.

“Matindi yung politika. We have been telling them there should be no politics in times of disaster. We should work together. We should unite,” he added.

Gazmin said the inclusion of politicking in the distribution of donations has affected their relief efforts.

He, nevertheless, claimed that efforts are being done to improve the system of bringing aid to areas affected by “Yolanda,” said to be the strongest cyclone that hit the country this year.

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Among the errors detected was the “double handling” of goods that reach the Villamor Airbase in Pasay.

Gazmin explained that when the goods are received in the hub, they are passed on to the Social Welfare department for repacking.

“We try to remove some of the steps. From the hub, it goes straight to the area and we give (them) to the mayor and the mayor will be in charge of giving them to the constituents,” he said.

Gazmin sees no problem in their new procedure since many volunteers are ready to assist in the repacking.

“Many volunteers come to the repacking area and (the system) has improved and the system has become efficient,” he said.

Inaccurate observations?

Gazmin also belied the observation of foreign journalists who reported about the lapses in the government’s humanitarian operations.

He labeled as “unfair” reports that the government’s response to the disaster is slow.

Gazmin, also the chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), also claimed that they have given enough warnings to residents in areas that lie along the path of the typhoon.

The defense chief also brushed aside claims that there is no sense of urgency in the Villamor Airbase, where the military cargo planes are based.

“I don’t think it’s an accurate observation. The C130s have been flying up to the time they’re able to fly,” he said.

Gazmin said goods are being brought to Tacloban through the C130 planes at around 6 a.m. He said there are three sorties at noontime and another three in the afternoon.

“With the additional four C130s offered by the US, there is a little bit of problem because of traffic because the airport can only accommodate so much,” Gazmin said.

He also denied claims that foreign donors are being asked to talk to the Americans. Gazmin said prospective donors may coordinate with the Office of Civil Defense in Camp Aguinaldo.

Gazmin, though verified an observation by CNN that there are no feeding centers in the middle of Tacloban.

“But we do provide food directly to the barangay and municipal mayors and the LGUs (local government units),” he said.

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