Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman should answer for the wastage of food packs and sacks of rice that were intended for recent typhoon victims.
The relief goods have been found buried in Dagami, Leyte.
“Soliman had admitted the rice and food packs were from the DSWD warehouses but clarified that they were intended to be distributed to those affected by typhoon Ruby and typhoon Glenda last year and not for survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda,” Marcos said.
Soliman said her department is conducting its own investigation into why the relief goods were not given out.
“Secretary Soliman cannot simply toss the responsibility for this mess to her underlings; she is the one ultimately responsible,” Marcos asserted.
He added that last year, the Commission on Audit (COA) also reported the spoilage of an estimated P2.8 million-worth of relief goods intended for Yolanda survivors in 2013.
“The DSWD claimed it has learned its lesson and even acquired a mechanized repacking system and yet, this unconscionable wastage of relief goods continues to happen,” Marcos lamented.
“According to Soliman, the goods buried in the area are no longer fit for human consumption. Initial reports estimate that about 500 sacks of spoiled rice were disposed of in a 10-feet wide, 15-feet deep hole dug in Dagami. Can you imagine how many typhoon victims the DSWD could have helped with such amount of relief goods? Surely, those responsible for this are unfit as public servants. Someone should be held accountable,” the senator stressed.
Vice President Jejomar Binay also lambasted Soliman, saying such negligence “borders on criminal neglect.”
“Thousands of Filipinos suffer from hunger every day, especially those affected by calamities, and yet we have a government that allowed food to rot,” Binay said. “What’s more disappointing is that this was not the only time food for calamity victims had gone to waste,” he added.
In its 2014 report, COA said the DSWD had been left with undistributed and expired or about-to-expire relief goods worth P141 million.
“The admission by Secretary Soliman only highlights the reality that she has failed to provide the department the efficiency and compassion required in providing immediate aid to calamity victims,” Binay said. “She has opted instead to play politics, placing premium on advancing the candidacy of the LP [Liberal Party] candidate over the more urgent needs of the poor.”
In its audit report, COA found out that DSWD bought and accepted relief goods without considering the absorptive capacity and condition of the warehousing facilities and personnel, available stocks, shelf life or expiry dates and the actual needs of the victims.
This led to overstocking and spoilage of the goods.
In the same report, COA mentioned that of the P1.151 billion local and foreign cash donations the DSWD received from November 2013 to December 2014, 33 percent or P382.072 million had been unused and kept in DSWD bank accounts.
“This is a gross disservice to both the calamity victims who needed all the assistance they could get, and the taxpayers and donors who contributed to the government’s calamity fund,” Binay said.
“In times of disaster, government should be able to provide immediate relief to the victims. There’s no room for dilly-dallying. Their survival largely depends on government’s ability to extend the needed assistance,” he added.
The food wastage also enraged Anakpawis party-list.
“It is highly unacceptable that human error was the cause of the spoilage. This is not human error, it is in fact the product of systematic incompetency and negligence to calamity victims by the DSWD and the Aquino government,” Rep. Fernando Hicap said.
“The 284 sacks of rice will come a long way if were not left to rot by DSWD regional office.
What happened to the huge amount of budget allocated by the Aquino government to the DSWD that it cannot provide adequate warehouse for relief goods?” Hicap asked.
“The sins of DSWD chief Dinky Soliman to calamity victims are unfathomable. She should be held accountable to all the sufferings she inflicted to all calamity victims under her stint namely typhoons Ruby, Seniang, Pablo and super typhoon Yolanda,” he added.