By Maricel V. Cruz and Vito Barcelo
Pnoy told: account for every cent of aid
President Benigno Aquino III came under pressure from lawmakers and Church leaders who said that the president should match his words with action and fulfill his vow to account for every centavo of donation given to Yolanda typhoon victims.
In a forum with high school students on Thursday, Aquino had vowed that the ‘government is ready to account for every centavo” of the donations, after apologizing to a group of student transferees from Tacloban City who are now studying at the Hope Christian High School in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
But the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said that while the president should be commended for having the courage to own up to his administration’s shortcomings, the apology came “too late.’
Instead, it urged the government to immediately correct its mistake by improving the delivery of relief services.
“It’s good that he apologized even if it’s too late. I hope that this admission will be followed with reform,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said.
The president’s apology came in the wake of reports that truckloads of food items failed to reach the victims on time and were instead buried in an open dump in Barangay San Jose.
The buried food items include biscuits, cupcakes, canned goods and rice that were declared unfit for human consumption. Some used clothing which can still be used were also dumped.
But Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said that while President Aquino’s apology is late, his apology “should be well taken”.
Lagdameo added that they may have been several factors that may have contributed to the slow response of the government in delivering the relief goods, such as the bad weather.
“But as in the case of the ship, the captain takes all the blame because of command responsibility,” Lagdameo said.
“The best thing to do is make up for his shortcomings. What does he intend to do concretely? Many people are still suffering,” Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said.
Pabillo said Aquino’s apology must be accompanied with restitution to the typhoon victims.
Still, the bishops lauded the president for his courage to apologize over his administration’s shortcomings.
In the House of Representatives, Gabriela partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan, said Aquino should put his words into action at the soonest possible time.
“When will he start computing? Baka after his term na? Yes, every centavo must be accounterd for, most especially the foreign donations. We should be able to see where the money went,” Ilagan said.
Aquino allies such as House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (Cibac), Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III said the President’s call was intended to ensure transparency as to how the donations were used for the relief of the victims.
But Tugna agreed that the Filipino people , especially the typhoon victims, deserve no less than a full-blown accounting of all the donations intended for them.
“As a man with word of honor, I believe the President will do that,” Tugna said.
Bello, on the other hand, asked Aquino “to just do it.”
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, meanwhile, appealed to the president’s critics to go slow as he explained that not all of the donations went through the government.
“We can do the accounting of all donations. But take note that some aid never passed the hands of the government and some have not yet materialized. Those that passed the government, he (Aquino) can account for sure,” Belmonte said.
Evardone, whose province was also devastated by typhoon Yolanda, supported the President’s call for transparency.
“The president is just being consistent with his policy of transparency and accountability. All implementing and rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts should really account all the public funds on Yolanda victims.”