THE Office of the Ombudsman, especially Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente, was urged yesterday to take a cue from President Rodrigo Duterte’s disappointment on the dismal disbursement of Yolanda aid of the previous administration in initiating a probe into the matter.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said the Office of the Ombudsman could address the misfortunes of Yolanda survivors by making accountable the public officials who could have bungled the rehabilitation projects in typhoon-hit areas.
“President Duterte vented out his frustration and anger about the dismal distribution of Yolanda aid. The Office of the Ombudsman can turn the frustration of the President into hope by looking into the complaints of alleged misuse of Yolanda funds,” Barbers said.
By doing so, Barbers said this would bring justice to Yolanda survivors who are still reeling from the monster storm’s devastation that has been aggravated by the slow delivery of assistance and delayed implementation of rehabilitation projects.
“Yolanda survivors have been demanding justice and the action of the Office of the Ombudsman investigating the alleged misuse of Yolanda funds can at least give a little comfort to the pervading hunger and poverty they are still experiencing,” Barbers added.
During the third year commemoration of the Yolanda tragedy last November 8 in Tacloban City, President Duterte ordered his officials to complete the distribution of shelters to the survivors, saying he is not satisfied with the help given to typhoon victims.
The President said only a few people are staying in the bunk houses provided by the government three years after the typhoon ravaged the country.
Promising to return next month to Tacloban City, President Duterte directed Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Diño and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chair Vice President Ma. Leonor Robredo to oversee the distribution of the shelters.
On Tuesday, Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin strongly backed the call of Senator Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Clemente to conduct a fact-finding probe into the alleged misuse of multi-billion peso Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction fund.
While they have the right to investigate the circumstances behind the United States’ (US) trip of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Garbin said the Office of the Ombudsman should not ignore the complaints of Yolanda victims who are still suffering from painful and agonizing experience three years after the tragedy.
During his visit in Tacloban City, President Duterte also announced that families who have not received housing assistance will get P5,000 each and P3,000 livelihood assistance from his government.
The Kusog sang Pumuluyo, a group of Yolanda survivors, and its supporters in Panay Island asked Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to audit funds meant for building or repairing houses of the survivors of the super typhoon after hundreds of them failed to receive funds from the Aquino administration.
Senator Risa Hontiveros has asked a congressional investigation into the planned resettlement of survivors of typhoon Yolanda in an area near a dump site in the northern part of Tacloban City, noting the possible health risks it may pose for residents.
A study in the last quarter of 2015 revealed that “three out of four permanent resettlement sites” for over 2,000 residents were located near the city’s dump site.
The government is now planning to relocate some 16,000 families or 80,000 residents to 14,433 housing units in northern Tacloban, at least 15 kilometers away from the downtown area, for a period of four years or until 2018.
Super typhoon Yolanda has affected 1.5 million families, 918,261 of them were outright displaced.