Typhoon victims denounce ‘coercion’
UNLIKE similar programs run by foreign agencies, the cash-for-work program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development was only able to help 16,000 Yolanda survivors for only 10 days and hundreds of thousands of survivors are still jobless, survivors said on Saturday.
Worse, Benedictine nun Edita Eslopor said, DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman has been “coercing” survivors to sign prepared testimonials praising the government and DSWD for its handling of the Yolanda crisis.
“In some cases, some victims were even bribed by as much as P1,200 in exchange for their signatures, signifying satisfaction over services of DSWD,” said Eslopor, one of the convenors of the People Surge movement that was formed in the wake of the disaster.
But Palace spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Aquino administration remains determined to carry out rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by Yolanda and appealed to all sectors to work together.
Coloma defended Soliman in an interview with government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan and said she has already been ready to discuss relief efforts in affected communities and has adopted a hands-on approach in helping survivors since the disaster struck.
But Coloma noted that the people should also consider the magnitude of the fact that Yolanda affected 44 provinces and 171 municipalities and cities. Overall, there are some 17 million people devastated by the typhoon.
But Eslopor said Soliman was trying to project the image that victims are happy with how the government handled the Yolanda humanitarian crisis, but “how can the survivors be happy when even the government data from DSWD show otherwise?”
“People are suffering and dying out there, and here is Dinky Soliman waving papers saying everybody is happy. What exactly does she want, except to save her own skin and not the lives of the people?” said the nun during the Women’s Day protest outside Malacañang.
She said the DSWD must also be held accountable not only for lack of support to victims of Yolanda, but also to the victims of typhoons Pablo in December 2012 and Bohol earthquake in October 2013.
The People Surge movement said Soliman must stop using the Yolanda survivors to save her political career. “If Soliman cannot do it, she must resign,” Eslopor said.
Feminist activists, clad in black mourning clothes, also staged a march to the ancestral house of the President Benigno Simeon Aquino on Times Street in Barangay West Triangle, Quezon City to denounce government neglect of Yolanda victims.
Joanmey “Joms” Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, said the President is also culpable for the gross neglect of the “multitudes of disaster victims” in Leyte and for refusing to even receive the petition of the People Surge movement.
“As women in many other countries cite the gains in improved quality of life and march in joyful parades, women in the Philippines become even more impoverished and vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse,” Salvador said.
“Our militant marches are the kind of actions needed to push the government into action vis-a-vis the deterioration of women’s conditions under the brutal regime of the Aquino administration” she added.
Coloma Jr. said the Aquino administration remains determined to carry out rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by Yolanda and appealed to all sectors to work together.
Coloma said the Aquino administration has not lost its sense of urgency and will not waver in its rebuilding initiatives.
“We need heightened determination. We are also calling on everyone to help us. There should be cooperation between the national and local governments,” he said, adding that civic organizations and individuals who were not affected by the calamity should also help.
“We continue with an intense sense of urgency and the government remains open to anyone who may have suggestions or proposals how we can make our rehabilitation efforts better,” Coloma added.