- Posted February 26, 2013 by
Davao City, Philippines
More than a thousand protesters loot Philippine welfare agency
By Ben O. Tesiorna
More than a thousand protesters stormed the Department of Social Welfare and Development regional office in Davao City Tuesday morning, February 26, 2013.
The Philippine government agency is tasked on distributing relief goods for the poor and typhoon victims in Southern Mindanao but has been the center of controversy the past month after accusations of anomalies surfaced.
The protesters started barricading the DSWD office Monday as the Philippines commemorated the 27th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution that ousted the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, and catapulted Corazon Aquino, mother of incumbent Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, to power.
The protesters were demanding the release of 10,000 sacks of rice for the victims of typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) that ravaged the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley on December 2012.
Sensing that their demand would not be addressed, the protesters started to destroy the padlocked gate of the agency around 10:30 Tuesday morning and took away sacks of food packs.
DSWD regional director Prescy Razon said the "looters" took away 3,000 food packs, 600 boxes of noodles, 300 boxes of coffee, and several boxes of sardines ang kinuha. She said each food pack is worth P250 (US$6).
"The crowd became really uncontrollable that they got inside the premises of DSWD and took away the goods that we have inside that are intended for the Tagum flood victims," she said.
"Ambilis ng kanilang action. Para bang sanay sila sa ganitong trabaho. They were able to commandeer a jeepney bringing some of the goods," Razon added.
Police personnel were in the area when the looting started but they were too few to stop the protesters from entering the DSWD premises. A bulk of the loot were however recovered by the authorities and are now being cordoned off right in the middle of the street were the protesters continue to barricade as of press time.
"The police is in the area but it was just unfortunate kanina na they were lacking in numbers when the looting started. The police forces were able to get back the goods that the looters took out of the office and they are now cordoned in Suazo Street. And anybody who would attempt to take the goods could be charged for theft," said Razon.
Asked of their next move, director Razon said they are planning on filing charges against organizers of the barricade led by the group Barug Katawhan and other cause-oriented groups.
"We are moving towards that (filing of charges). The next step is for us to address the looting incident and the obstruction of the operation of the DSWD because it has barred us from our usual duty of serving the poor. They claim to be pro-poor and yet what they did was prevent us from serving the poor," Razon said.
It was learned that since Monday, the protesters did not allow any employees to enter the DSWD regional office.
"Hinarangan nila ang lahat ng entrances so we are just around the vicinity and keeping watch of their movement and it's just very disgusting that they have gone beyond," said Razon.
The protesters claim to be victims of typhoon Pablo from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. Razon said though that based on their interviews, "some of them are from Davao City, some are from Agusan, others coming from Trento, and Davao Oriental."
"They were just asked to join and they did not really know kung unsa gyud ang ilahang tumong sa pag-anhi diri sa Davao City. Never did they realize that they will be here for a rally," Razon revealed.
This is the second time that protest action led by Barug Katawhan became violent. Last month, thousands also barricaded the national highway in Compostela Valley preventing the passage of hundreds of vehicles passing the route.
The protesters then dispersed after DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman promised to release the sacks of rice demanded by the protesters anytime soon. BOT