Hungry ‘Pablo’ victims ransack DSWD office
(The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2013 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – More than a thousand people who survived the ravages of super typhoon “Pablo” yesterday ransacked the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) here in protest against the slow distribution of relief goods.

The protesters were demanding the release of 10,000 sacks of rice intended for distribution to typhoon victims in the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Sensing that their demand would not be addressed, the protesters tore down the gates of the DSWD regional office along Suazo Street here and took what they could find.

DSWD regional director Prescy Razon said some 3,000 food packs, 600 boxes of noodles, 300 boxes of coffee, and several boxes of sardines were taken. She said each food pack is worth P250.

“The crowd became really uncontrollable that they got inside the premises of DSWD and took away the goods that we have inside that are intended for the Tagum (Davao del Norte) flood victims,” she said.

Initial reports said several protesters, including a young girl and a news photographer, were injured during the incident.

Freelance photojournalist Karlos Manlupig said he was hit with a truncheon by one of the police during the dispersal.

The gates fronting the DSWD offices were also destroyed.

DSWD regional office spokesperson Carmel Duro said the confrontation started when officials asked the protesters some requirements as proof that they were typhoon victims.

The protesters then complained that their local officials had already submitted the requirements.

Since Monday the protesters did not allow any of the employees to enter the DSWD regional office.

The protesters claimed they were victims of typhoon Pablo from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Razon, however, said some of them came from Davao City with a mix coming from Trento in Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental.

“They were just asked to join and they did not really know. Never did they realize that they will be here for a rally,” Razon said.

The DSWD has been tasked with the distribution of relief goods and other assistance for the poor and typhoon victims in Southern Mindanao but has been the center of controversy the past month after accusations of anomalies surfaced.

Charges were filed against some DSWD regional officials before the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao over alleged anomalies in the distribution of relief goods and construction of bunkhouses for Pablo survivors.

Razon said the protesters even commandeered a passenger jeepney in hauling the relief goods.

“It happened so fast as if they knew how to go about it. They were able to commandeer a jeepney in bringing some of the goods,” she said.

Some policemen were in the area when the looting started but they were too few to prevent the scrum.

A bulk of the loot was however recovered by authorities and which was then cordoned off right in the middle of the street where protesters continued to barricade.

The protesters then dispersed after Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman promised to release the sacks of rice to them anytime soon.

Razon said they are planning to file charges against the organizers of the barricade, led by the group Barug Katawhan and other cause-oriented groups.

“They claim to be pro-poor and yet what they did was prevent us from serving the poor,” Razon said. – With Ben Serrano

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