Anomalies mar DSWD rehab efforts
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Irregular and anomalous activities plague the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at the local levels, spilling over to rehabilitation efforts in Davao Oriental -- parts of which were devastated by Typhoon Pablo.
A former community development assistant filed administrative and criminal complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman against the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Region 11 for alleged corruption and anomalous activities on Friday afternoon, February 15.
June Sanchez-Obenza, who worked for more than 3 years in DSWD under the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program, filed complaints against DSWD-Region 11 acting director Priscilla Razon, Human Resource Department chief Loreta Anas, Kalahi-CIDSS regional financial analyst Annabelle Jabla, and regional community infrastructure specialist Santos Eusebio Jr.
“I believe they have conspired and committed acts of grave misconduct and dishonesty in office, and acts that are criminal in nature, namely, forgery for both Jabla and Eusebio) and dereliction of duty/misconduct (on the part of Razon and Anas),” Obenza said in her complaint.
She accused Jabla and Eusebio of instructing other employees from the Area Coordinating Team and Municipal Coordinating Team to forge the signatures of public officials, including mayors, and community leaders in official documents like the Request for Fund Releases (RFR).
Obenza narrated that she personally witnessed the accused forging documents during an RFR Preparation and Review Workshop in Eden Nature Presort in Davao City last Nov 14-16, 2012.
Aside from forging signatures, Obenza revealed that Jabla and Eusebio were also involved in collecting “10% commission” of the total project cost from a contractor who won in the bidding of an infrastructure project.
“A certain engineer of a contractor who does not want to be named complained to me last May 2012 that Eusebio asked a certain commission. It became a burden to the contractor because another barangay official also asked a commission,” Obenza said.
She added that last October 25, Eusebio explained to her that he was not asking for a commission but was soliciting sponsorship for his daughter’s birthday.
Milking disaster response
When Typhoon Pablo devastated the region, Obenza was deployed as the emergency response team leader for Cateel town.
Obenza disclosed that the contractor for the bunkhouses in Davao Oriental is a brother of one of the consultants of Kalahi-CIDSS wherein a P1 million cash advance was immediately released as payment for the laborers.
“What is worse is the manipulation of documents by the team of Jabla and Eusebio Jr for the 544th Engineering Combat Battalion when the latter volunteered to provide labor in the construction of the bunkhouses in San Rafael, Cateel, Davao Oriental,” Obenza said.
“Although said Engineering Battalion asked Food for Work as there was really no readily available food in Cateel then, both DSWD-KALAHI CIDSS and the said Engineering Battalion agreed to give them P100/day/soldier,” Obenza said.
However, an investigative article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last February 3 showed that the P100 food allowance for the soldiers has not appeared in the liquidation sheets.
“There was no recorded amount of P100 paid for soldiers but P200 to P300/day/laborer and using names of laborers that could not be determined who they were,” Obenza said.
The construction of the bunkhouses lasted for 20 days.
Obenza also said there are ghost laborers in the present rehabilitation efforts of the government in typhoon-affected areas.
“In the disaster response operations, there are ghost names of laborers,” Obenza said.
50-year-old carpenter Romulo Serot from Compostela town in Compostela Valley was hired by DSWD in the construction of the bunkhouses in his municipality.
With no personal tools, Serot said he borrowed a hammer and saw from his friend and was able to work for a day.
His friend took back the tools the next day forcing Serot to quit his job in the construction site.
Serot’s 23-year-old son Remly replaced his father’s spot in the construction. Not as a carpenter but as a laborer. Remly worked in the counstruction for 3 days.
Romulo received P300 for his day’s work while Remly received P600.
However, in a copy of the DSWD liquidation sheet both Romulo and Remly were paid P350 per day for 12 days.
Both denied signing the liquidation sheet. Remly said he signed a logbook but not a liquidation form.
Obenza said she also personally witnessed the forging of the liquidation sheets.
“I witnessed the forgeries even in the regional office of the DSWD last January 19. Not just me, there are also other staff members who witnessed the incident,” Obenza said.
‘We want Soliman out’
Pounding the steel gate with stones and attempting to climb over it, enraged residents from areas affected by Typhoon Pablo staged a protest action at DSWD-Region 11 last Tuesday, February 12, to call for the ouster of Secretary Corazon Soliman for her alleged responsibility in the issues hounding the agency.
“The DSWD has already proven itself to be corrupt and inept in implementing the relief and rehabilitation operations. At this point, the Aquino government itself is driving the 6.2 million Pablo victims to rise up and struggle in order to survive,” Karlos Trangia, spokesman of Barug Katawahan, said.
The group led the 10-hour barricade in Montevista town last January 15 as an expression of their rage against the alleged poor delivery of government services to typhoon-devastated villages.
Trangia said that one of their justifications in calling for the ouster of Soliman include her alleged “connivance” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its counter-insurgency campaign.
Soliman was also accused of “mismanaging and corrupting the P18-billion calamity fund and international aid.”
“Most of Pablo victims only received relief packs twice for the last two months and rotten rice,” Trangia said.
Trangia said indigenous people from Baganga town in Davao Oriental also reported that government volunteers were selling relief packs for P200.
Barug Katawhan also lambasted DSWD for the alleged overpricing of bunkhouses for typhoon victims in Cateel, Monkayo and Compostela.
Compared to the bunkhouses constructed by the International Organization for Migration which is only around P250,000 each, a government-funded bunkhouse costs P550,000 each.
Some of the bunkhouses were also constructed over cemented basketball courts and Trangia asked where the supposed budget for the cement flooring would go.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Soliman shrugged off the calls for her ouster saying that the agency is open to discuss any criticisms.
Soliman explained that the difference in the total costs is due to “varying design features.”
“The DSWD bunkhouse is bigger in floor area, it has thicker floor slabs (1 inch thicker), with more roofing (159 GI sheets while IOM has 96 GI sheets), with pathway, wash areas, and kitchen compared to the IOM bunkhouse which has no provisions for pathway, electrical, kitchen and concrete wash, and toilet and bathroom,” the DSWD said in a statement.
Soliman said the Commission on Audit is already carrying out a post-audit to clarify the issue on overpricing.
The Social Welfare Secretary quickly added that she is willing to launch investigations on the issues raised in Region 11.
“I want to have the details,” Soliman said.
Non-renewal of contract
For now, Obenza said she would continue to push for truth and transparency.
Her contract with DSWD was not renewed which attributed to her efforts to expose the anomalies.
Obenza said Jabla and Eusebio sent a letter of recommendation to Anas and Razon not to renew her contract.
“I asked Anas and Razon to also provide me a copy of the letter of recommendation but they refused,” Obenza said.
Obenza added that Anas also approached her to tell her that her contract would be renewed but with a condition.
“At one time, around January 9, 2013, I was surprised at being told by Loreta Anas that my contract would be renewed but I should not raise the issue against Jabla and Eusebio,” Obenza said.
Presently, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao is providing assistance and security for Obenza.
“We will provide all support needed by Obenza including her protection,” said Bayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Sheena Duazo.
Duazo also appealed to the other employees of DSWD who have knowledge about the anomalies to also speak up.
“We need more whistleblowers to expose these corrupt practices in the government,” Duazo said. – Rappler.com