PNoy draws flak over neglect of ‘Yolanda’ survivors
“It has been two years now after Yolanda, but the people are suffering from the bigger disaster that is the Aquino government,” Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said as he and other activists lit candles to remember the estimated 7,000 people killed by the typhoon that hit Luzon on Nov. 8, 2013. “Instead of helping the victims, the government pocketed the funds allotted for the victims and paved the way for private contractors and big businesses to profit from the misery of our kababayan,” Crisostomo said, noting that the official death toll 6,340 with 1,061 others still missing. “The continuing neglect for the welfare of victims of Yolanda shows the heartlessness of the Aquino ‘tuwid na daan [straight path]’ government,” he said, noting that the government allowed aid donations to sit idle in trust accounts while disaster victims begged for assistance. The Commission on Audit discovered at least P382 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims kept idle and locked in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s bank accounts while P923 million were kept idle in the bank accounts of the Office of Civil Defense. Recently, the government admitted that funds for Yolanda victims have been kept idle in bank accounts and have yet to be released like the P18-billion “emergency shelter assistance” funds. “The failed Yolanda rehabilitation, aimed to benefit big business and corrupt bureaucrats, is proof of the failure of the [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation]-type model of ‘disaster management’ and ‘disaster resiliency.’ Is this what they are set to adopt for the region?” he asked. “Biktima na nga, binibiktima pa ulit. Hindi na nga tinulungan, ginagamit pa [Victims are being victimized again. They got no help and yet they are being used],” Crisostomo said, stressing that Aquino and [then Interior Secretary Mar] Roxas “should be jailed for their crimes.” Senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, whose district includes the regional center of Tacloban City which was flattened by Yolanda, urged that the Aquino administration immediately release more than P1 billion in disaster funds that have not been released. He said the unused disaster fund amounted to P1.308 billion as of December 2014 and it can still go a long way to ease the suffering of people who had already been victimized by Yolanda. It is unacceptable that the OCD, a calamity agency of the Department of National Defense, could give the “lousy excuse” that it could not release funds for victims because they cannot comply with requirements. “Common sense dictates that people are in dire need of these calamity funds, therefore the OCD should do away with its stringent requirements,” Romualdez said. “I propose to overhaul the present system to address the inefficiencies by making the process keep it short and simple as malasakit [compassion] to the calamity victims,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association, added.