The rumors about corruption in government services for the typhoon victims of Leyte and Samar are unsettling despite the fact that what they purport to convey is still under investigation. The very idea that victims will be re-victimized is a heinous thought.
But certainly the evidence of shoddy bunkhouse construction is for real. Let us hope that the overpricing story is at least untrue. Bunkhouses for victims, temporary as they may be, are for human beings. They are human habitats and thus must be humane in space considerations, living necessities like privacy, healthful and sanitary facilities, as well as shelter from the elements. What kind of specifications did the DPWH which initiates the construction relayed to the contractors? How come the spaces are impossibly small? Who made the specifications and who changed them, if those were indeed changed? This is madness that must have a method immediately applied to it to rectify the anomaly and make the bunkhouses answer the need to provide temporary humane shelter to those made homeless by the typhoon.
The point is that if government will be the instigator or even the tolerant party to shoddy construction for typhoon victims, it is showing contempt, carelessness and incompetence for the well-being of those for whom it must alleviate sufferings.
We have Filipino resource persons who can be consulted about acceptable standards of services in this situation. One of them is Dr. Felino Palafox who has extensive and successful local and international credentials and experience in urban planning, housing and the current acceptable parameters of each. He is a Filipino technocrat who has shown his willingness to help. Will the DPWH or whoever contractor, whatever local government, whatever government agency ask him formally to help and set the standards as well as sign off on them, in case they do not know?
You would think the choice of contractors for the above typhoon relief housing would be carefully vetted and once chosen would do their job for optimum results for those who they are supposed to serve. One does wonder what crosses these contractors’ minds as they construct impossibly small, inadequate and vulnerable housing. Do they think about their handiwork and the rip off they are perpetuating on helpless victims?
It is time the public and whatever responsible, government and non-government agencies on the ground in typhoon area rehabilitation take the lead wisely and well. The unprecedented worldwide support as well as the equally extraordinary local contributions of Filipinos (including those away from the country) shows that there are means to be used to set things right temporarily and eventually permanently for typhoon struck areas. It is also to be expected from recent manifestations that the usual venal and corrupt elements in our society are going to take advantage of the largesse for themselves.
It is good that we have a law enforcer as the Rehabilitation Czar. The public looks forward to him for no-nonsense vigilance and investigation of what, how and where and for whom the sabotage of rehabilitation occurs.
Leyte and Samar, particularly, though I do not exclude any other typhoon-affected areas, deserve attention and service in the purest and most altruistic way. As provinces in the typhoon belt, as historically inadequately served areas of this country where basic services have always been touch and go, where no real opportunities have been shared from the central government as a matter of policy, where for the most part local officials have not quite come up to the needs of their people and their districts for some reason or another (perhaps political considerations obstructing them?), this country owes them and this is the time to deliver.
The typhoon struck area must be regarded as a war zone, the end result of catastrophe and calamity, where everyone was a victim in one form or other. Relief and rehabilitation and permanent improvement are called for. Those who obstruct it can be regarded as traitors and dealt with accordingly in the most stringent ways that the law allows, the law of the war zone, where life and death are in play.