MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is accusing television network TV5 of manipulating information on rotting relief goods in its supposed warehouse by airing spliced footage.
On March 26, TV5 aired a video report showing various sacks of relief goods from DSWD and foreign donors rotting in a warehouse in Tacloban City.
Days after the report was aired, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman denied the facility belonged to the agency. In a later statement, DSWD said the warehouse was, in fact, being managed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Food Programme (WFP). Meanwhile, TV5 is standing by its report.
But DSWD has not backed down on its accusations. It issued two statements on the matter. Not content, Soliman and WFP deputy country director Asaka Nyangara held a joint press conference in Quezon City on Tuesday, April 22, to address the report anew.
During the press conference, Nyangara said that while WFP indeed managed the warehouse in question, the footage shown in the report could not have been taken from the facility because it was, at the time of filming, already empty.
The television report by TV5 correspondent Ina Zara contained 3 parts – footage of an unkempt warehouse, which it said, belonged to DSWD; interviews of residents who received spoiled goods; and the visit of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) chief Helen Clark to Tacloban City.
An earlier story published on Interaksyon.com also said that spoiled relief goods were delivered to a village in Palo, Leyte.
On the 00:25 mark, the report showed a “Task Force Yolanda” DSWD Hub banner in front of a warehouse. The video then cut to medium shots of family packs and sacks of rice from foreign donors.
The report also showed a decomposing chicken in the middle of a messy pile of rice sacks with DSWD labels.
On April 4 – days after the report was aired – Soliman, in a statement, denied that the warehouse belonged to DSWD, and reiterated a request she made in a formal letter she wrote to TV5 for the network to disclose the exact location of the facility.
TV5 did not respond to the letter, Soliman said, but on April 14, the network aired the report once again and said the warehouse was located in Barangay Caibaan. On the same day, TV5 issued an official statement:
TV5 stands by its March 26, 2014 story on rotting relief goods found inside a DSWD warehouse in Tacloban City. Our news team confirmed the warehouse was used by the DSWD and it was clearly identified by signage which read: “Task Force Yolanda – DSWD Hub.” There was no information withheld from DSWD. TV5 provided details of the story and warehouse location to representatives of DSWD Region 8.
‘Unicef won’t keep a messy warehouse’
On April 16, DSWD issued another statement, this time, identifying WFP as the caretaker of the warehouse.
Soliman said DSWD warehouses in Tacloban City are located in Barangays Apitong and Abucay. These facilities have Task Force Yolanda-DSWD Hub banners “prominently displayed on the façade,” she added.
But the Caibaan facility, DSWD said, was managed by Unicef and WFP at the time of the news report’s filming.
In Tuesday’s press conference Soliman questioned the framing of the news report.
“I also would like to say that the framing of that news indicates to us questionable sources and manipulation of information,” she said.
But were the DSWD warehouses well maintained? Soliman said she was “sure” the warehouse was not in a mess around the time the report was filmed because she inspected the facilities herself on Tuesday, March 25 – a day before the report was aired – in preparation for the arrival of foreign dignitaries.
Soliman said she was also confident the WFP warehouse in Caibaan was clean.
“WFP is the expert on logistics and warehouse management. They will never have a warehouse that has spilled rice and rotten chickens. Those of you who are experts in video and showing camera shots, you know how video shots can be manipulated,” Soliman said.
“I appeal to media and the journalists. There’s nothing wrong with being criticized as long as it is based on evidence and it is not manipulated,” she added.
WFP: Caibaan warehouse was empty
Close to a month after the report was aired, WFP, for its part, said Tuesday, April 22, there was no way the footage could have been filmed in the WFP warehouse since it was already empty at the time of filming.
Nyangara said WFP had already moved from food distribution to its cash-for-asset program.
“We’ve completed general food distribution by the end of March. What we are now doing is undertaking cash-for-asset programs. As I’ve said, you do not keep cash in a warehouse, you keep it in a bank. By the time of filming, that warehouse is totally empty. We have details to show. And if anyone wants that information, we can give the information,” Nyangara said.
Soliman wants TV5 to correct the alleged misinformation. Asked whether the department is planning to pursue legal action against the network, Soliman said it will not.
“Ayokong makipag-away sa media. Talo ako. (I don’t want to fight with media. I will lose.) That’s all I can say. Talo ako kung makikipag-away ako (I will lose if I fight with them),” she said.
“Hindi ko po hinihinging purihin ninyo ang aming trabaho. Hindi ko inaasahan na puro magagandang bagay lamang ang ilalabas ninyo sa inyong diyaryo at programa. Ngunit hindi naman siguro kalabisan hilingin sa inyo, tanging katotohanan lamang ang inyong ibalita,” she added.
(I’m not asking you to praise our work. I’m not expecting you to run only positive reports in your newspapers and programs. But I think it would not be too much to ask that you report only the truth.)
Sought for a response, TV5 head of news and information Luchi Cruz-Valdes said the network will be issuing a new statement and will answer “every point” raised by DSWD. – Rappler.com