Unused disaster donations
The Commission on Audit’s (COA) disclosure that about P923 million in foreign and local cash donations given to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) have been sitting idle in banks since last year is not only an eye-opener but served to justify Vice President Jejomar Binay’s claims that the Aquino administration is slow to act on national emergencies to the point of committing criminal negligence.
Most telling as far as the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda were concerned was the COA disclosure that only P38 million out of the P137 million donated by foreign and local donors made it to their hands as of last year.
That P137 million was the biggest amount that coursed through the OCD since 2008. Of the P923 million that the agency received from foreign and local donors, only P81 million or 17 percent was disbursed, with the rest still earning interest in the banks.
With that amount, one could only think of what the national government could have done to help the victims of countless natural and man-made calamities.
The OCD defended its negligence by saying that the amount is intended only for cash assistance and cannot be used to fund housing projects, livelihood aid or any other purpose.
And one can only avail of the cash assistance by completing documentary requirements that would take weeks to finish and cost a lot of money on the part of victims, who would have to search for whatever remained of their papers after losing their homes and loved ones to floods, earthquake or landslide.
Whether it be government money or donations from the private sector both here and abroad, the OCD’s failure to allocate the funds is upsetting to say the least and downright appalling.
One is reminded of the parable where Jesus Christ described what three men did with amounts entrusted by their master before he left for a journey.
Two of the men invested their talents and reaped profits for their master while the third buried his talent based on the reasoning that he knew his master “was a hard man who reaps what he doesn’t sow.”
The displeased master confiscated the talent from the errant servant and had him cast in hell.
Rather than use the donations given by foreign and local donors that were placed under its Quick Response Fund, the OCD chose to bury it deep into the banks which benefited from the interest earned from the cash that were supposed to go to countless victims who had no one to turn to other than the government for help.
The OCD isn’t an enterprise, what they did borders on criminal negligence.
While it is expected to judiciously use whatever funds it received, it should not burden the intended recipients with bureaucratic requirements but ensure that such assistance is given quickly as its name implies.
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