DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Over 3,000 protesters stormed the office of the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Davao City occupying the street in front of the agency.
Carrying bamboo poles and tarpaulins, the residents erected tents and threatened to remain outside the agency until their demands are heard and provided by the Aquino administration.
Karlos Trangia, spokesman of Barug Katawhan, the protest is a manifestation that the people in typhoon-devastated towns have not felt significant government presence and assistance in their villages.
The group lambasted the March 19 deadline of the government-sponsored relief operations saying that hunger is still a big problem in the villages.
“It is very ironic that the people who are supposed to be attended by the government are now marching from the provinces to the city to demand from this administration things that should have been given to us a long time ago. This is people power,” Trangia said of the protest that came on the 27th anniversary of the EDSA revolution.
He added that relief services must be extended for 6 months most especially now that Tropical Depression Crising has caused another devastation in the area.
Trangia also demanded that the DSWD should release the 10,000 sacks of rice promised by DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman during the barricade last month.
In a text message to Rappler, Soliman clarified that the Commission on Audit requires a list of names and areas and a distribution plan before the rice can be released, “we have to account for the 10k sacks of rice.” She adds, “they only have us the place for repacking and the people there denied agreeing to the group.”
In the negotiations during the roadblock, Soliman and the local government agreed to release an initial batch of 1,900 family packs and 100 sacks of rice.
He explained that the residents are apprehensive to include their names in any documents after 8 leaders of Barug Katawhan and several support groups were slammed with charges for leading the roadblock.
“How can we submit a list of the names when the residents are already afraid that this will be used against them?” Trangia remarked.
Soliman appealed to protestors not to polticize the rehab and relief efforts, “if it is true that the people in the rally have not received help, just provide us with the names and we will help. If there are families going hungry, give us the names and we will deliver to them.”
Trangia denied allegations that militant groups are manipulating the residents and called for the resignation of Soliman, demanding for a liquiation of disaster funds.
Soliman has shrugged of the calls for her ouster adding that her office is always open for criticism. – Rappler.com