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DSWD chief under fire over spoiled rice

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(Photo from PTV News)


MANILA — Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. slammed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and its Secretary Corazon Soliman after 284 sacks of rice meant for typhoon victims were spoiled and buried in Dagami, Leyte.


“Such act 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 in a press statement.


“What’s more disappointing is that this was not the only time food for calamity victims had gone to waste,” he added.


Binay and Marcos cited the 2013 audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA), which said that family food packs worth P2.8 million for 7,527 families affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda were spoiled “due to improper handling.”


In 2014, COA said the DSWD had been left with undistributed and expired or about-to-expire relief goods worth P141 million.


The COA also found that the 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.


In the same report, COA mentioned that of the P1.151 billion in 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 the agency’s bank accounts.


 Soliman reportedly admitted that 284 sacks of rice meant for the Food for Work program for Typhoon Ruby victims were buried in Barangay Macaalang in Dagami, Leyte, adding she has ordered an investigfation on the matter.


“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.


“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. 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.


Marcos said Soliman should take full responsibility for the spoilage of food as she is the person ultimately responsible for the handling and distribution of relief goods.


“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,” he said.


“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,” he added.


Binay also claimed that Soliman has played politics, “placing premium on advancing the candidacy of the Liberal Party candidate over the more urgent needs of the poor.”


Binay, presidential candidate of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, scored Soliman over the supposed spreading of black propaganda against him.


He claimed that some DSWD personnel are telling beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program that he will not continue the project if he is elected president. The Vice President has denied this.

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