The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has turned its back to the people.
Over 3,000 hungry Typhoon Pablo survivors under the group Barug Katawhan stormed the DSWD-Davao office today to systematically confiscate the 10,000 sacks of rice unconditionally promised by DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman when the group held a 10-hour road block last year in what arguably is the first real protest action of climate change-affected communities. The first barricade came after
DSWD and the mainstream media chose to describe it as a “riot” that “ransacked” the office for their selfish purposes, much akin to desperate criminals. They defend their negligence to promptly provide months-delayed aid by citing Barug Katawhan’s refusal to provide a beneficaries’ list. Dinky claims that most of their cash for work operations and other humanitarian work were suspended due to the shenanigans of Barug Katawhan. Dinky repeatedly questioned again and again how the survivors are able to mount protests when they should have spent the expenditures the actions entailed for food instead.
Dinky’s statements, and especially her response to the issue of selective distribution and corruption by her agency, perhaps perfectly encapsulate the DSWD’s process of responding to humanitarian crises:
- When a typhoon hits and disaster occurs, make sure that the government’s relief operations strictly avoid areas with a strong presence of militant trade unions, peasant, human rights and environment groups.
- When forced by a 7,000 person-strong road barricade forces you to do your mandated job, give them spoiled rice and expired canned goods instead.
- Make sure to threaten criminal charges against the hungry survivors so they would refuse to give their names in a beneficiaries’ list. This gives us a technical basis for not releasing any relief goods to the victims. Throw in a 9-point red tape process for good measure.
- Never, and we mean NEVER, entertain the notion that the Filipino people’s resilience from disasters is a human right that must be asserted when it cannot be provided for by the state through negligence or systematic abandonment.
Dinky wants us to think that the proper conduct of disaster victims is to wait patiently for the government’s charitable act of giving aid, never mind that they are growing hungry because of the welfare secretary’s political biases (funny, how Dinky was even the first to accuse Barug Katawhan of politicizing this issue). Never mind that the people have inalienable rights to food and social services that seem to disappear when you become a typhoon victim who just so happened to be politically unfavorable for the DSWD secretary.
But as BALSA Mindanao’s Francis Morales so sharply put it, the “angry and hungry” people are justified to “take what is rightfully theirs.” In this democracy, no matter how nominal it is, it is the responsibility of the state to provide for the people, and it is the people’s responsibility to hold the state accountable to it. If it won’t do its job, it is our job to jolt them to action.
The fact remains that DSWD intends to file a case against the very people they neglected to serve. The foolhardy Dinky will take us to task when it is her disrespect of the rights and dignity of the people, and her agency’s track record of corruption and mispriorities that “ransacked” whatever’s left of our rights and welfare that should be slammed and condemned.
The people will see you in court then, Dinky. We’ll see who rots in jail.