Because of the massive number of reports coming in regarding alleged anomalies and irregularities in the way its relief packs are being distributed as part of efforts to help Filipinos affected by Typhoon Lawin, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Thursday emphasized the law stating that tampering with relief packs is a criminal act. Under RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010, Section 19, certain acts are prohibited and those who commit them will be held liable and be subjected to the penalties as prescribed in Section 20 of the same law. Prohibited Acts Among the prohibited acts are as follows (g) Diverting or misdelivery of relief goods, equipment or other aid commodities to persons other than the rightful recipient or consignee; (h) Accepting, possessing, using or disposing relief goods, equipment or other aid commodities not intended for nor consigned to him/her; (i) Misrepresenting the source of relief goods, equipment or other aid commodities by: (1) Either covering, replacing or defacing the labels of the containers to make it appear that the goods, equipment or other aid commodities came from another agency or persons; (2) Repacking the goods, equipment or other aid commodities into containers with different markings to make it appear that the goods came from another agency or persons or was released upon the instance of a particular agency or persons; (3) Making false verbal claim that the goods, equipment or other and commodity its untampered original containers actually came from another agency or persons or was released upon the instance of a particular agency or persons; (j) Substituting or replacing relief goods, equipment or other aid commodities with the same items or inferior/cheaper quality. DSWD Sec. Judy M. Taguiwalo said that the department and its field offices in Regions I, III, III and CAR continue to receive complaints from members of the public wherein they state how citizens are either not receiving relief packs or receiving packs that are said to be from the DSWD, but do not contain the goods that have been announced to be in them. "We continue to receive complaints and to verify, validate many reports that DSWD relief boxes are not being distributed to the intended beneficiaries - Filipinos affected by Typhoon Lawin. Reports are coming in by the hundreds through our Facebook and email accounts that some LGUs and barangay units are not distributing DSWD relief packs or opening them up to eventually take the contents out and replace them with goods of lesser quality," she said. "We deplore these acts and we are grieved and outraged on behalf of Filipinos affected by Typhoon Lawin and are relying on the assistance of the DSWD and other government agencies to tide them over this very difficult period. The assistance that we're providing the survivors of Typhoon Lawin are already so minimal, but there are unscrupulous parties who have no qualms about still reducing them if not completely withholding them from the rightful beneficiaries." Good LGUs Sec. Taguiwalo clarified, however, that there are also many LGUs and barangay units that have been very active in distributing the DSWD relief packs and are completely cooperative with the department when it comes to reaching out to citizens calling for assistance. "We are very glad to work with these LGUs and their officials because they are actively working to help their constituents and giving them the relief boxes they have been provided by the DSWD. We are also receiving reports on their quick response and compassionate actions," she said. Sec. Taguiwalo also said many LGUs and private institutions and individuals are also distributing their own relief packs. "This should be welcomed by our kababayans. We have to clarify that it's not only the DSWD that's distributing goods, so if the packs they receive do not look like the DSWD boxes, our kababayans should not immediately react negatively and instead accept them in the spirit they were given. If they feel suspicious about the origins of the pack, only then should they ask questions or ask for clarifications from the barangay, the LGU, or the DSWD," she said. Penalties Section 20 of RA 10121 lays down the penalties for tampering with relief packs. "Any individual, corporation, partnership, association, or other juridical entity that commits any of the prohibited acts provided for in Section 19 of this Act shall be prosecuted and upon conviction shall suffer a fine of not less than P50,000 or any amount not to exceed P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than six years and one day or more than 12 years, or both, at the discretion of the court, including perpetual disqualification from public office if the offender is a public officer, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of the objects and the instrumentalities used in committing any of herein prohibited acts." "If the offender is a corporation, partnership or association, or other juridical entity, the penalty shall be imposed upon the officer or officers of the corporation, partnership, association or entity responsible for the violation without prejudice to the cancellation or revocation of these entities license or accreditation issued to them by any licensing or accredited body of the government. If such offender is an alien, he or she shall, in addition to the penalties prescribed in this Act, be deported without further proceedings after service of the sentence." "We appeal to all our partners in the delivery of relief assistance - from the barangay and local government units to the civil society organizations to please help us deliver the relief boxes to all Filipinos affected by Typhoon Lawin and to help them gain access to the emergency shelter assistance (ESA) fund, as well as the cash-for-work (CFW) program. We must work together to ensure that our kababayans affected by Lawin - many of whom have lost their houses, crops, and other means of livelihood - receive what assistance the DSWD and the national government are providing them. It is most sorry state of affairs that there are those who are taking advantage of the tragedies experienced by so many," she said.
Source: Philippine Information Agency