30 October 2009

Ella Exposes Unused Donated Goods

Relief Goods
Last 21 October 2009, Ella's Blog (www.ellaganda.com) reported that most of the donations from international agencies and organizations that were coursed through the Department of Social Welfare Department (DSWD) were not repacked and allocated to their intended user. Instead, what was being used are locally produced products, like the ones pictured above, while imported ones are being kept supposedly for special kits. What special kits? Kits for the families of some highly placed official in the department?

When asked by the Editor of Philippine News why most of the goods are not moving, Secretary Esperanza Cabral allegedly answered on the phone that its because they lack volunteers. Now this is really disturbing. It was shown in several television channels how volunteers trooped to the warehouses of private organizations to help repack and distribute relief goods even during weekdays, so how come DSWD is having problem attracting their own share of volunteers? Are they asking for volunteers in the first place or maybe those that were tapped are family members of warehouse employees in order to hide something from the public's eyes.

A better question yet for DSWD is: Are they solely dependent on volunteers to support the operation of the agency during a calamity such as typhoons and earthquakes? So, what if there is zero volunteer? Does not mean the agency will not asked all its employees to render overtime, including their executives. Has the notion ever entered the minds of these executives that maybe they could have asked volunteers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), schools officials and even from the overpaid executives of government corporations? These are very lame excuses and college dropouts might have been able to offer a better reason for non-performance.

One commenter in Ella's Blog calling herself Director P. M. Bernardez said that, "Let it be known that this warehouse served as a national storage of relief goods intended to the whole country for augmentation to regions once a need is warranted. Hence at any given time there is an adequate stockpile ready for released immediately."

So what this poster is telling us is that the two Tropical Storms, Ondoy and Pepeng, that killed almost 1,000 Filipinos and left thousands more homeless and hungry does not warrant emptying these warehouses with goods, including the imported ones. In other words, they will only distribute what they can as long as they still have enough stockpile. What a load of bollocks! Those supplies are needed now and not later! They should be given directly to the people badly affected and not kept in these warehouses because of some stupid office policy that says they need to maintain adequate stockpile for some unforeseen event or disaster. Once the disaster, calamity or leptospirosis outbreak has passed then that will be the time to replenish these precious supply for picture-taking purposes or for whatever political scheme the officials can think of in 2010.

How about we asked DSWD officials to report to more than nine million people affected by the twin calamities - 4.75 million people from Ondoy and 4.47 million from Pepeng - that they have a nice looking storage facility capable of storing enough supply to meet any calamity that will hit the country in the coming days? I'm sure these people will appreciate it very much and jump with glee at the thought that they have such a responsible set of official who are thinking about their future.

Secretary Dr. Esperanza I. Cabral posted in Ella's Blog and claimed that, "I wish that I could have prevented the deaths from typhoons but in fact, they have nothing to do with the relief goods that we are in charge of. Most of the deaths were from drowning or injuries sustained during the typhoon. Some died of illnesses. We are not in charge of rescue nor are we in charge of health and to the best of my knowledge, none of the deaths was due to absence of or delay in the delivery of relief goods."

There was no question in anybody's mind that most of the deaths occurred during the height of the storm, but death and hunger still prevailed after the event and that should have been addressed explicitly by those donated goods and packages. Those illnesses that DSWD wants to wash their hands from could have also been prevented if adequate sanitary supplies were allocated. Does officials from DSWD ever heard of the word 'preventive' or this is only common among health workers? Again, the unconfirmed reply from Secretary Cabral failed to mention anything about imported donations. What happened to them and what is the special circumstance that will merit their release and distribution?

Secretary Cabral added that, "Our warehouses are indeed full, inspite of the fact that we have distributed 500,000 food packs and 200,000 clothing packs as well as thousands of sacks of rice, blankets, beddings, and items of personal hygiene in the past almost 4 weeks."

Let us stop talking gibberish like an aging rock star. We don't care about those figures because more families are visibly in need of help. If DSWD is so concerned about its darn figures and numbers, then they should have been asked, why they were not able to distribute 1 million food pack and 500,000 clothing packs? Because those are mere numbers and there is no way of verifying if those are the exact amount that is needed in a 4-week period and if those assistance were really received by the intended beneficiaries.

As of 27 October 2009, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that there were still 14,892 families affected by Ondoy and 22,989 families affected by Pepeng residing in evacuation centers. Assuming that a family has an average of 5 members, those figures stated above are not something to be proud of, but DSWD does not know that.

The DSWD is seeking to encourage donation from across the globe, even appealing for more international aid to rehabilitate the affected areas and yet they failed to explain clearly how they plan to distribute the goods or why imported items are not being repacked for the victims of a disastrous storm. How can they live with themselves?