President GMA accused of obstructing relief assistance to Ondoy victims
by Gene Nisperos, contributor.
“Barely a week after government was caught flat-footed by the devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now wants to centralize all foreign assistance under her control.”
In an e-mail sent to The Pamalakaya Times, the activist group Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) charged President Arroyo of obstructing relief assistance to compel donors to forward all cash and other donations to the government.
HEAD strongly criticized the recent directive from Mrs. Arroyo that foreign assistance and donations will only be tax-exempt if these are coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Non-government organizations, cause-oriented groups, and even private citizens have risen to the occasion and done their share to help amidst government’s gross inability to address the situation,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary-general.
Rivera added: “These groups have mobilized their own resources, both local and foreign, in order to aid victims. Why does Mrs. Arroyo want to stifle these efforts?”
According to HEAD, the Arroyo directive not only sends the wrong message to would-be donors but also raises strong suspicions regarding her real motive.
“Given the history of corruption and profligate spending intimately associated with the Arroyo administration, people are concerned where foreign donations, especially the millions of monetary assistance, will go?” Added Dr. Rivera.
The health group lamented that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration cannot even account where its P10 billion Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Fund went. The HEAD said rather than dampen the enthusiasm of private efforts and obstruct aid to those that government cannot even reach, Mrs. Arroyo should expand the limited and token government actions.
“For instance, more than just releasing the 13th month pay of government employees or allowing emergency loans, which will still be a burden to be paid for eventually, government should provide a P20,000 calamity assistance “bonus” to government employees,” the group said.
“This will really help rank-and-file employees, especially those whose salaries are very low, instead of dipping into their 13th month pay,” HEAD stressed. The group also said President Arroyo should also encourage private employers and big business to match this amount and provide for their workers, particularly the daily wage-earners.
“While the focus is on Metro Manila, where damage to life and property is tremendous, farmers and fisherfolk in outlying areas have suffered just as much and also require much assistance. Most vulnerable are the marginalized ones, whose lives are not caught on television or the internet,” the health group said.
“The least that Mrs. Arroyo can do is to commiserate with, rather than exploit, the misery of the Filipino people. “Those who have less are helping out because they know that these are hard times. In contrast, Mrs. Arroyo cannot even hide her disgust at the throngs who flocked to Malacañang to seek help. Her callousness is worse than Typhoon Ondoy itself!,” HEAD statement added.