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Santiago berates DILG for being ‘unprepared’

SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday lambasted the Department of Interior and Local Government for being unprepared to respond to the devastation brought by super typhoon “Yolanda.’’

“Unprepared, the DILG was flummoxed when local governments in areas severely hit by typhoon Yolanda were made inoperative due to the gravity of damage brought by the disaster,” Santiago said. “Public safety and delivery of basic services to the citizenry broke down.”

She also slammed the department for the breakdown of law and order immediately after the super typhoon.

In a written inquiry to the DILG, the senator asked, “What measures will the DILG take to prepare itself against these calamities?”

“Since the DILG is directly responsible for the PNP, what measures will the department take to bring down sharply these horrible violations and abuses committed by police officers?” Santiago asked.

She also asked about specific preventive measures that the DILG took to deal with the breakdown of peace and order.

Santiago was not at Monday’s hearing on the DILG’s P100 billion budget for 2014, but sent questions instead.

She attacked the Philippine National Police as the most corrupt institution in the country, according to the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

“Every week, one reads reports of police officers being involved in extortion, kidnapping, molestation, rape, murder, organized crime, and other sorts of abuses and acts of corruption. Every year, thousands of administrative cases are filed against police officers for various complaints of misbehavior, according to police records,” she said.

Sought for comment after the hearing, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II admitted the government encountered difficulties in dealing with the effects of super typhoon Yolanda because the first responders —the policemen, firemen and disaster risk reduction personnel from the areas also became victims of the deluge.

“The lesson from Yolanda is that the families of the first responders should be evacuated and secured, so the first responders will not become victims,” he said.

In defending the DILG’s recommended budget for climate change, Roxas said that through technical assistance and seminars, they will show local government units how to plan and develop their own disaster risk reduction and management plans.

Responding to allegations that his department has usurped the functions of the National Housing Authority (NHA), Roxas said he was merely following orders.

“I just do what the President tells me to do,” he said, brushing aside speculation that politics was behind the zero allocation for new housing given to the NHA, which is under Roxas’ political rival, Vice President Jejomar Binay.

While Budget Secretary Florencio Abad did not give the NHA an allocation for new housing for the poor in the proposed 2014 spending plan, Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, promised to restore the budget based on the 2013 allotment.

In Monday’s hearing, Escudero defended the DILG, saying that housing programs are not the exclusive function of the NHA.

Senator Nancy Binay, daughter of the vice president, earlier questioned the DILG’s basis for having P700 million in housing projects for squatters.

“What is the enabling law of the DILG to engage in the construction of buildings for informal settlers?” Senator Binay asked.

She said Executive Order No. 90 provides that the NHA is the “sole government agency engaged in direct shelter production.”

Despite Binay’s questions, the Senate plenary approved the DILG budget for 2014.


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