The evacuees who approached Bulatlat also complained about the food. In one of the interviews, when the DSWD volunteer who “accompanied” Bulatlat was preoccupied with the children playing around, the interviewee whispered that they were not being fed on time. “At first we were well-fed. But later on, we were no longer given breakfast or dinner,” she said in Filipino. “The children are crying because they are hungry. At one point, we were fed because a mother went to their office complaining that she was already hungry.” Nanay Maria also said there were times when they were given spoiled food.
Pasig City social welfare officer Francisca Delleva said they were simply “respecting the freedom of choice” of the evacuees who wanted to leave PhilSports Arena. As for the food, one of Dellava’s staff told Bulatlat that the food for the evacuees were being catered by Doris Catering and paid for by the local government. Delleva said they spent roughly P25 to P35 ($0.53 to $0.74) per person for each meal, excluding the free potable water.
Marin said the irregularity in providing food is just one of the old tactics that the coordinators of the evacuation center did so that the evacuees would be forced to accept the Balik Bahay or Balik Probinsya scheme and leave PhilSports Arena.
He added that the conditions of the evacuees in PhilSports Arena showed the neglect and the attitude of the government toward the urban poor. “Even government services are now being given in such a way that the people are indebted to the elected officials,” Marin said.
To register their sentiments, Kadamay held a protest action in front of the PhilSports Arena on Oct. 23. Marin said some evacuees were set to join the protest action. However, sensing that a protest action was in the offing, the coordinators allegedly transferred the evacuees contacted by Kadamay to another center.
Kadamay demanded for a dialogue with representatives from the DSWD, the local government of Pasig, HUDCC and NHA. But no one faced Kadamay to clear the allegations.
Marin said most families from the urban poor are used to not receiving any assistance from the government. So in times like these, they are willing to take anything that is being offered to them instead of not receiving anything, he said.
Kadamay said the government should implement a genuine solution to the problems of informal settling in Metro Manila. “To make the Balik Bahay scheme work, employment should be immediately given to the families so that they would not have to live along the riverbanks. As for the Balik Probinsya, a genuine agrarian reform program should be passed and implemented so that the families who have decided to go back to their provinces would have land to till and earn a living from,” Marin said. (Bulatlat.com)