It has been three years since Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wrecked large areas in the Visayas but the government response to help victims remains a controversial issue as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Monday claimed it found cases of irregularities in the dispersal of aid.
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said her department conducted an internal assessment of donations given to the government following complaints from Yolanda victims who did not receive emergency assistance.
“There are around 200,000 claimants who expressed the complaint that they were victims of Yolanda in Region 8 and Region 6 but they were not given the assistance needed,” Taguiwalo said during a press conference.
She said the aid should have been urgently released and “not three years, not two years after.”
“I think, generally, the money has gone to the people but there are cases of irregularities, non-compliance or non-implementation… The disqualification, the exclusion of emergency shelter assistance for victims of Yolanda is widespread,” Taguiwalo said.
Some of the irregularities include delays in the release of emergency assistance to typhoon victims. In some cases, she said some victims were not relocated because of the ban on giving assistance to residents living in danger zones.
Some victims also failed to receive assistance because they were not part of political groupings.
“It went through the local government units and again, there was unfair treatment. So, there were people who were victims of Yolanda but who were not part of the political groupings of particular local government officials so they were excluded. We have that a lot,” Taguiwalo said.
The DSWD secretary said her department had already submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte a report on the supposed irregularities.
“We have submitted the report to the President already of a particular irregularity and we have asked him to initiate the investigation. So we will come out with that by next month — before the third year of Yolanda,” Taguiwalo said.
She clarified that the internal assessment was not meant to find fault but to set guidelines on how to properly respond to disasters.
One guideline being implemented by the DSWD right now is the immediate release of emergency shelter assistance to victims belonging to the poorest of the poor.
“So, I think, the spirit there is we don’t want any form of irregularity, of any corruption. The President is very clear about it. Our marching orders from Day One is (to give) prompt and compassionate assistance,” Taguiwalo said.
“So we are doing our best to make sure that the Yolanda experience in terms of delayed provision of emergency shelter assistance should not be repeated,” she added.
Yolanda, considered the deadliest typhoon to hit land in recent history, battered the Eastern Visayas Region in late 2013, killing more than 6,000 people and displacing millions.
The devastation galvanized countries into action. Foreign aid, according to the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, amounted to $386.2 million.
Even before he officially assumed office, Duterte has been urged to investigate alleged irregularities in the distribution of the funds under the administration of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino 3rd.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon himself visited Tacloban City in Leyte, one of the hardest hit areas, to assess the damage and rehabilitation efforts being undertaken by the government.