• Probe ‘irregular’ ‘Yolanda’ shelter program – lawmaker

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    An opposition lawmaker is seeking a congressional inquiry into alleged irregularity in the implementation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) program for typhoon victims.

    There were “unreasonable restrictive guidelines, cases of political abuse and anomaly” in the implementation of the ESA program, according to Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list.

    This prompted Hicap to ask the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability in House Resolution 2322 to invite officials of the DSWD and non-government organizations (NGOs) in the cala¬mity areas to shed light on the matter.

    “Nearly two months before the second anniversary of the deadliest typhoon that hit the country, victims of Yolanda still struggle with anguish,” Hicap said.

    Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) hit the Visayas in central Philippines in November 2013, displacing tens of thousands of people and leaving more than 7,000 dead or missing.

    The country is lashed by about 20 storms a year.

    In a statement on Sunday, Hicap said “delays in the granting of shelter assistance funds brought about by the DSWD’s restrictive guidelines, the agency’s glaring display of incompetence and negligence and reported cases of abuse and irregularity flagrantly defeat the emergency and humani-tarian nature of the ESA program.”

    The program, according to the lawmaker, grants P30,000 to victims of Yolanda whose houses were completely destroyed and P10,000 to those with partly damaged houses.

    But “typhoon victims are being doubly distressed as they are being disqualified from availing of the ESA because of the inordinately stringent conditions set by the DSWD’s Memo¬randum Circular 24,” Hicap said.

    Under the memorandum, according to him, those eligible to receive ESA include families who are already renting and had availed of the DSWD Disaster Family Access Card (DAFC), contractual government employees who have no housing loans and regular workers from the public and private sectors who earn below P15,000 a month.

    “[M]any calamity victims on the islands of Samar, Leyte and Panay have been deprived of the ESA on the mere account of their residence location, receipt of aid however little from local officials and the discriminatory salary cap provision as if those earning a little over P15,000 are no longer in dire need of assistance,” Hicap said.

    He added that he received reports of loan sharks and financiers, allegedly in cahoots with local DSWD officials, preying on calamity victims.

    Hicap cited an alleged modus operandi wherein “usurers” would lend cash to ESA applicants equivalent to the sum that the DSWD is supposed to grant each beneficiary but with an added 16-percent interest.

    “The DSWD would then in turn release the shelter assistance not to the grantee but directly to the loan shark or financier,” he said.

    The alleged anomaly, according to Hicap, has further worsened the vulnerability of calamity victims, considering that later typhoons hit the same areas flattened by Yolanda.

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