Perhaps it is a bit too much to ask of a government agency such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to implement leaps in improvement in the efficiency with which they operate within four years. Back in 2009, in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, then blogger and columnist (now head of one of MalacaÃ±ang’s several-odd “communication” teams) Manuel L Quezon III wrote about how the DSWD headed by Secretary Esperanza Cabral under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo suffered that same exact dysfcuntion exhibited by government agencies in the manner with which they deliver their public services…
The above may as well have been written today about the DSWD under Secretary Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman who this week is under fire following the reported “ransacking” and “looting” of a DSWD warehouses in Davao City on Tuesday, the 26th February, presumably by survivors of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Pablo in December last year. Typhoon Pablo killed close to 2,000 people in the most recent of deadly “natural” disasters to hit Mindanao. The looters had reportedly grown impatient with the “ineptitude of the DSWD in distributing relief goods.”
The issue, shorn of all the emotionalism that’s come to surround it, is simply this: Is the DSWD moving fast enough in dispatching donated relief goods, considering the continuing need of so many citizens for relief?
The blunt answer is, the DSWD could be moving faster, and it took the public outcry caused by the blog for the government to start sounding a call for more volunteers, which sidesteps the question of whether it’s a wise or even necessary policy to rely on volunteers for a line agency to fulfill its functions. The DSWD has done a lot, as it is; so the public interest lies in figuring out how it could do better?which it can’t do, without the public participating by means of criticism and helping in problem-solving.
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Soliman for her part asserts that “the behavior the rallyists and looters during the incident Wednesday is unlike that of the poor and disadvantaged the DSWD has been serving for many years,” possibly implying that the people who stormed the DSWD compound and looted its warehouses may not be the real victims who are the most in need of the relief goods stockpiled there.
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) apparently wasn’t impressed…
“Instead of squarely addressing the protesters demands, Soliman has resorted to all sorts of diversionary tactics, even to the point of questioning whether the protesters were indeed typhoon Pablo victims. This is grossly insensitive,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
Bayan said the protest “was triggered by the DSWDâ€™s failure to honor a previous commitment of providing 10,000 sacks of rice after Pablo victims barricaded a high-way to Davao City.”
â€œFor the DSWD, the burden of proof lies with the victims. After all this time, the victims still have to prove that they are the victims. They have to prove that they deserve to be served. The DSWD imposes so many requirements and preconditions for the distribution of the 10,000 sacks of rice, subjecting the Pablo victims to various indignities and difficulties,â€ Reyes added.
Critics also question the choice of words used by MalacaÃ±ang to report the incident to the media. “Ransacking” and “looting” of course imply criminal liability among those involved. Added Reyes, “Some quarters describe it as looting or ransacking, but if you look at the videos and pictures, what protesters did was the organized seizure of goods. It was not a case of every-man-for-himself-grab-what-you-can-and-run. The seized goods were later centralized for proper distribution…â€
Indeed, a graphic posted by Facebook Ã¼ber-community Showbbiz Government describes the shadow of doubt that surrounds allegations of violence in the manner with which the relief goods were seized by the protesters.
Whatever the case, it is clear that not much has been learned and not much progress has been achieved where it matters in the transition from one administration to another and in the non-evolution from one campaign rhetoric to another. Considering that a former A-List pundit who was a strong critic of former President Arroyo and boldly proposed solutions back in 2009 is now an irrelevant cog in an administration that pitched the notion that it is different in every aspect to its predecessors, you wonder whether there really is any point to all the noisy attention the chattering classes pay the campaign rhetoric of one or the other politician today.
[Photo of celebrity distributing relief goods courtesy pEDo.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.