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Look into Yolanda fund misuse, solon urges Ombudsman

  • Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 304

A HOUSE leader yesterday called the Office of the Ombudsman, especially Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente, not to turn a blind eye to the alleged misuse of the multi-billion-peso Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction fund.

Stressing that inaction is a grave injustice to Yolanda victims, Paraña­que City Rep. Gus Tambunting, who chairs the House Committee on Games and Amusement, said the Office of the Ombudsman should respond to people’s outcry over the need to look into questions hounding the utilization of Yolanda funds.

“To turn a blind eye to the theft of funds meant to alleviate the suffering of those left behind as well as to honor those who perished because of that great tragedy is a crime by and of itself,” Tambunting stressed.

“And if there is even a whisper of irregularity regarding the use of funds meant to aid victims of Typhoon Yolanda, then it definitely deserves to be looked into,” Tambunting pointed out.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, a member of the opposition bloc, said the Office of the Ombudsman should conduct a motu proprio investigation into the reported mishandling of the multi-billion-peso Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction fund.
   
Roque said the Office of the Ombudsman should not just concentrate on “small time” cases that could have been politically motivated.
   
He explained that a thorough investigation into the issue, not only at the national but also the local level, has to be carried out to find out what had happened to the Yolanda funds. “Sayang ang sources if he deals with the small fry,” Roque stressed.
   
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone also underscored the importance now to account in full for the Yolanda funds.
   
“It is about time corruption in the use of Yolanda funds be investigated with outmost urgency,” Evardone said.
   
During the third year commemoration of Yolanda last November 8, President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte vowed to see survivors transferred to permanent shelters soon, firing off orders to Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Dino and Vice President Leni Robredo to help in the effort, and vowing to check on progress in a month.
   
President Duterte also announced that families who have not received housing assistance would get P5,000 each and P3,000 in livelihood assistance from his government immediately.
   
On November 8, 2013, Eastern Visayas was ravaged by typhoon Yolanda -- the strongest typhoon to make a landfall in the world.
   
Super typhoon Yolanda affected 1.5 million families of whom 918,261 were outright displaced.
   
Official figures from the former administration placed deaths at 6,300 and missing at 1,061. Injured were 28,689.
   
Earlier, the Kusog sang Pumuluyo, a group of Yolanda survivors, and its supporters on Panay Island asked Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to audit funds meant for building or repairing houses of victims of the 300-kilometer-per-hour storm in November 2013 after hundreds of them failed to receive funds from the Aquino administration.
   
Even Sen. Risa Hontiveros sought a congressional investigation into the planned resettlement of survivors of Yolanda in an area near a dump in the northern part of Tacloban City, noting the possible health risks it may pose for residents.
     
A study carried out in the last quarter of 2015 disclosed that “three out of four permanent resettlement sites” housing more than 2,000 residents were located close to the city’s dump.