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Possible DSWD Mishandling Of Relief Goods Comes To Light; Sec. Cabral Explains

October 23, 2009

dswd relief goods stockpile montage 1dswd relief goods stockpile montage 2

Suspicions about the Department of Social Welfare and Development possibly mishandling the  repacking and distribution of typhoon relief goods have surfaced.

DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral herself has even reportedly admitted that the relief goods still packed in bulk are just in a DSWD warehouse.

Editor of Philippine News: Why are the relief goods in DSWD warehouses not moving?

DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral: Wala kasing volunteers.


The statement if true runs counter to Malacanang’s claim that it has centralized the receipt of both local and foreign relief aid donations so that disaster mitigation operations proceed efficiently.

Even assuming that the DSWD  is stockpiling the relief goods in anticipation of typhoon Ramil’s onslaught on extreme northern Luzon, the emergence of photos of the neglected relief goods fuels doubts about government incompetence yet again.

Paging Sec. Cabral.


The DSWD website now carries an explanation from Secretary Cabral, along with a detailed reports on the agency’s handling of disaster relief goods.

Sec. Cabral decries what she termed the “villification” of the DSWD’s volunteers.

CABRAL GRFXOur warehouses are indeed full, inspite of the fact that we have distributed 500,000 food packs and 200,000 clothing packs as well as thousands of sacks of rice, blankets, beddings, and items of personal hygiene in the past almost 4 weeks. That is the reason why when asked if we still have enough goods, my constant reply is yes, so far we do, thanks to the many kind-hearted individuals and organizations as well as countries who responded and are still responding to the plight of the typhoon victims.

There are no rotting relief goods in our warehouses as we do not keep perishables there and the relief goods that are there, save for the donated old clothes are quite new since they have been either recently purchased by us or have been just donated.

Our goods are repacked by volunteers who are there because they want to help. But they are volunteers and report when they have time to help us. Sometimes there are two hundred of them and sometimes there are only a dozen. However many or few they are, we appreciate their presence and their assistance. Weekdays are usually quiet but on Saturdays and Sundays, the students, along with others who work Monday to Friday, including our own employees, are there.

Our staff at the warehouse work round the clock even now, making sure that the requests for relief goods are met in a timely manner. They work hard, they work quietly and they work humbly and I feel bad that they have been subjected to public vilification that they do not deserve.
I do not recall having talked to an Editor of Philippine News. I do remember my secretary telling me that someone was on the phone asking why there were no volunteers working at the warehouse. My reply was we do not own the time of the volunteers.

I’ve now confirmed that it was a friend, Beting Dolor, was actually the editor from Philippine News who did call the DSWD.

Posting a comment in the blog of ‘Ms. Ella’, Beting recounted hisexchange with the office of Sec. Cabral:

I was the one who called DSWD four times to try and get their side. I was told that Sec. Cabral was 1) at a meeting, 2) interviewing applicants, 3) in the comfort room, and 4) about to leave for Pampanga.

It was her office secretary who relayed to me her message that there are not enough volunteers.

I wrote my piece for Philippine News because I was disturbed by the relative inaction of the department. The Philippines is under a state of calamity. As such, action is needed now, not tomorrow.

The hundreds of thousands of displaced Filipinos need all the help they can get. They cannot wait.

In times like these, I expect the DSWD to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The DSWD says there are not enough volunteers. I disagree. There are tens of thousands of Filipinos willing to help. The DSWD should have gone to the schools to ask for volunteers. There are countless employees in the private sector willing to help. The DSWD could have asked the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police to help.

I expect the department to take a more pro-active rather than a reactive stance. I expect the secretary to DEMAND that everyone help out. Lest we forget, human lives are at stake.

The victims are dying by the score everyday. It’s in the news.

As for the rotting of the goods, we all know that it is not only food that can rot. So, too, can clothes, canned goods, biscuits, blankets and everything else that can be found in the DSWD warehouses.

Time is of the essence. The food that the DSWD hands out today will be forgotten tomorrow. Believe it or not, the victims still need to eat every day. Three square meals, if possible.

Finally, the hoarding of the relief goods for future calamities does not make sense. We have just undergone the worst calamity in 40 years. Does the DSWD plan to keep those goods for the next four decades?

Distribute them now, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month.

Agreed, Madame Cabral?

Another journalist who’s closely following this story is ABS-CBN’s Manolo Quezon.

MLQ3 recounts what he and several friends found when they visited the DSWD warehouse:

Around 11 PM some friends and I went to the DSWD warehouse, just to take a look-see. The warehouse is located near the NAIA Centennial Terminal (DSWD National Resource Operation Center, Chapel Road, Pasay City, behind the Air Transport Office).

According to Gang Badoy, DSWD Sec. Cabral had agreed to allow her to organize shifts of volunteers to sort and pack relief goods at the DSWD warehouse from Monday to Friday, 3-11 PM. So at the time we showed up, I was expecting to see things winding down, the last trucks loading or in the process of departing, or people filing home after a tiring day’s work.

There was a white fluffy dog that was awake, and a guard that was asleep; through the gate I could spot part of the open-sided warehouse in the last picture above. Otherwise, everything was sleepy and quiet.

The guard, when he finally woke up, mumbled something about our being at the wrong gate. We asked whether volunteers were coming in, and he said yes, and when asked what time, replied, all the time, but when pressed further said only until 11. He said a few days previously, 200 students from the Philippine Maritime Institute had shown up; and more recently, 50 volunteers had shown up.

Asked how much got packed and shipped out, he declined to guess. And then said if we wanted to know details about volunteering, to go to the other gate.

The other gate was a big one covered with rust-colored sheet iron and after knocking on it another guard in a sando said that three military trucks full of goods bound for Regions 1 and 2 had left earlier, but he kept asking why we were asking questions, if we were doing “coverage,” and that he should get clearance first; he said volunteers could show up at 8 AM, even on weekends, but seemed less certain about what time things were supposed to wind down.

One thing’s certain: the place is not a beehive of activity, even in what is an ongoing emergency with areas still needing relief.If there hadn’t been the blog entry and pictures that provoked so much indignation, the public would never have been alerted to the -apparently- great and pressing need of the DSWD for “volunteers,” something the state media and all media could have amplified if a call had been made.

I think it’s safe to say that the DSWD was caught:

1. Reacting slowly to an ongoing emergency;
2. Trying to blame the public -the “lack of volunteers”- for not getting its (the DSWD’s) job done (within hours of the story gaining wide readership on the Internet, guess who Tweets an appeal for volunteers);
3. Trying to reassure the public by means of press releases saying they’re “working around the clock” when the only thing awake tonight was a fluffy white dog.

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