SAGBAYAN, BOHOL: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday defended Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. of Maribojoc town who has been under fire for driving away Red Cross volunteers who refused to hand over relief goods to the municipality.
The mayor earlier said that that he did nothing wrong when he told Philippine Red Cross (PRC) volunteers to leave, saying that centralizing the distribution of relief goods was his way of maintaining order and ensuring that all the 27 villages in the town would receive equal share.
Speaking to reporters, the President backed the mayor’s statement, citing the important role local government executives play in disaster relief operations.
He explained that the misunderstanding between Mayor Evasco and Red Cross Director General Gwen Pang highlights the need for proper coordination among government and private groups in relief efforts.
He also said that the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) has mechanisms mandated by law that involve local government units all the way down to the barangay level.
For this reason, he said all relief supplies are distributed evenly among all those who need it.
The President, on one hand, asked non-government organizations, including the Philippine National Red Cross, to coordinate with the local government for relief goods distribution.
“Magdadamayan tayo [Let us help one another],” Aquino said as he assured that government is also working on the distribution of food packs that would be sufficient for two weeks.
“[Nakahanda ang gobyerno sa mas magandang kaayusan pa. Yung nagsasabing walang pondo, nagkakamali ho sila [The government is ready to make the necessary improvements here. Those who have said that there are no more funds are wrong],” Aquino added
On the question of possible electioneering if local officials are involved in relief operations so close to a scheduled election, the President replied that they are mandated by law to perform that function, and said “if they don’t do it, who will?”
The Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces “together will not be able to attend to that and attend to everything else,” he said.
“At lahat naman talaga, even the first to response is always the LGU, ano. At sino ba ang LGU at the smallest level? So paano natin ipipwera kung sila talaga ang natalaga, both by a law and by the system in place, to attend to the needs of their respective constituents,” Aquino added.
The President visited here the churches, public markets, municipal halls, and evacuation centers that were damaged by the earthquake last week. CATHERINE S. VALENTE