Dinky Soliman: Don’t manipulate people in need | Inquirer Opinion
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Dinky Soliman: Don’t manipulate people in need

/ 12:00 AM March 11, 2013

I am writing in reaction to the Inquirer’s March 2 editorial titled “Hunger.”

First of all, allow me to clarify some facts. There is no P18-billion calamity fund. For 2012, the calamity fund of the national government amounted to P7.5 billion; of this amount, only P662.5 million was released to the Department of Social Welfare and Development as Quick Response Fund (QRF). Before Typhoon “Pablo,” the DSWD had already fully used up its QRF. From the additional P800 million from the Department of Budget and Management, we had released P785 million for Pablo as of Feb. 15, 2013. This amount translated into 1,173,354 food packs (936,030 from the DSWD and 237,324 from local government units/private donors) for 233,354 affected families; around P1.2 million of nonfood items (blankets, mats, clothing, kitchenware, etc); burial assistance for 431 victims; and 89 bunkhouses.

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There are two bunkhouses allegedly overpriced. We have asked the Commission on Audit to review the documents. Sanctions will be meted out to individuals found guilty.

The construction of permanent shelters for families with totally destroyed houses is at the preparatory stage; the identification of no-build zones was finalized last month; and the social and logistic preparations are presently being conducted so that people can move from the bunkhouses to these permanent shelters. The department will be releasing to the public detailed information of its Pablo relief and early recovery efforts.

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Second, let me react to the editorial’s contention that I am being combative. If I am being combative now, it is with good reason. I was a community organizer for 18 years, working with grassroots organizations. Throughout all those years, the principle that guided our work was the idea that we were there to empower the people, to enable them to demand for a better future for themselves. Beyond people’s empowerment, we highlighted the values of good governance, democratic politics and sustainable development. All these values were premised on a profound respect for the inherent dignity of the people we were there to help and serve.

When people are mobilized, told that they will meet Manny Pacquiao who will distribute money to them and then end up as part of a blockade in the middle of a highway, is this being truthful? When people—already vulnerable from the ravages of a disaster—are told that they will attend a celebration to commemorate the Edsa uprising, go swimming, receive a sack of rice from the mayor and then unwittingly end up part of a mob to ransack a government warehouse, is this empowerment? Do we respect people if we mobilize them through deceit? If I am combative now, it is because I feel strongly that deceit and half-truths have no place in the organization of a people’s movement.

If I may, I would like to end this letter by calling on those who would seek to discredit the hard work that we—my colleagues in the DSWD, and the numerous volunteers from nongovernment organizations, civil society, and the private sector included—have put into responding to the needs of our brothers and sisters who have been victims of natural disasters in Mindanao. If you profess to represent the interests of the people, let us work together espousing the principles of truth and respect for the dignity of people. Let us not manipulate people in their vulnerability. If this is not possible—because of ideological reasons—allow us to proceed with the work that we so urgently need to do. Our people deserve nothing less.

—CORAZON JULIANO-SOLIMAN,

secretary,

Department of Social Welfare and Development,

IBP Road, Batasan Pambansa Complex,

Constitution Hills, Quezon City

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