CAVITE, Philippines – Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo relieved his department’s Calabarzon regional director, Barry Chua, and his assistant regional director for operations (ARDO) to ensure an impartial investigation into complaints that their office made it difficult for affected families in Noveleta, Cavite, to get aid after Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae).
In a press briefing in Quezon City on Thursday afternoon, November 3, Tulfo said Chua and the ARDO, whom he didn’t name, had been told to report for work at the Department of Social Welfare and Development central office while the investigation is ongoing. Tulfo said he would compare notes with Noveleta Mayor Dino Chua (not related to the RD), who is doing his own probe.
Tulfo cited conflicting claims: DSWD workers said some families were not on the “ayuda” list; mayor said they were.
Tulfo said withholding because families lacked identification documents, if true, was contrary to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s instruction to the DSWD to give aid freely to those in need.
On Tuesday, November 2, during a visit to typhoon-hit Maguindanao del Norte, President Marcos told local officials and field officers: “‘Wag na natin masyadong intindihin ‘yung bureaucracy. Basta iparating na natin ang relief. Eh, ano kung magdoble-doble?.… Alam mo naghihingalo ‘yung tao. Life and death ito sa kanila. There is no such thing as sobra na relief. No such thing. Kung ano ‘yung meron tayo ibigay natin kaagad, and it doesn’t matter kung may papel. ‘Wag na ninyong papirmahin. Walang kakainin ang mga ‘yan.”
(Don’t mind the bureaucracy. Just give the relief aid. So what if people get relief aid twice?.… You know people are struggling. It’s a matter of life and death to them. Whatever we have, let’s give it to them immediately. Don’t make them sign papers anymore. They have nothing to eat.)
On Tuesday, Noveleta’s Mayor Chua told a radio interview that the DSWD regional office demanded identification cards and residents’ certificates from his constituents before they could get aid when President Marcos was visiting on Monday. The residents, he pointed out, had lost these documents to the flood.
Within an hour after Chua’s interview, Tulfo texted the mayor to say he would be investigating the matter, would take swift action if he would find the DSWD officials at fault.
Mayor Chua told local journalists that during President Marcos’ visit to Noveleta on Monday, only 100 residents were deemed qualified by DSWD to receive cash assistance when 98% of residents were affected, many of them living in shanties submerged in floodwater.
The President declared a state of calamity in Calabarzon and three other regions to allow local officials to utilize emergency funds and control the prices of basic commodities.
Cavite’s coastal towns were among the most affected by Paeng. Of these, Noveleta was the hardest hit.
Chua, the regional director, had just been sworn in by Tulfo along with other directors last September.
On Friday, October 28 – a day before Paeng hit land – Tulfo called regional directors to a meeting to get situation reports on the provinces along the storm’s path. He was visibly irked, according to a Manila Bulletin report, when Calabarzon Director Chua didn’t join the meeting supposedly because he was on a business trip.
“From now on, under my watch, ‘pag may incoming typhoon, calamity, you make sure that all hands on deck. Ang ibig kong sabihin kung may leave ka i-cancel mo muna dahil ako secretary may leave ako kinancel ko. This is not a joke,” Tulfo said.
(From hereon, in my watch, if there is an incoming typhoon, calamity, you make sure all hands on deck. What I mean is, if you’re on leave, cancel it, because, look, I’m the secretary and I canceled my leave. This is not a joke.) – Rappler.com