STRIKE HOME| DSWD’s Taguiwalo will do to ride the river with  

THE VENERABLE Elpidio Damaso who founded Peryodiko Dabaw (that was to become Sun.Star Davao) would describe a left-leaning person as someone who walks by slightly tilting his shoulder to the left as if leaning on some imaginary post.

The phrase “will do to ride the river with” is a cowboy expression, which means someone who can be trusted.

There is nothing wrong with the way DSWD’s Secretary Judy Taguiwalo walks except that in a manner of reckoning, she is one of those who represents the left in Duterte’s cabinet.

No matter. For if there is one redeeming factor in Duterte’s cabinet of late, it was the image of Taguiwalo visiting the provinces of Northern and Central Luzon by chopper in the wake of Typhoon Lawin’s devastation.

She went up a few notches in my yardstick with the promptness and determination she displayed in first assessing the damages and then in joining Duterte later in distributing the relief goods to typhoon victims.

It seemed that while most of Duterte’s cabinet joined the President in his travels to Brunei and China, Taguiwalo chose to stay behind mindful perhaps that one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in recent memory was well underway.

The news accounts placed her in Isabela, Cagayan, Apayao and parts of Kalinga, four of the most hard-hit provinces. The first-hand accounts gave her precisely the idea on the kind of assistance that should be provided the typhoon-stricken communities. So that when it was time to distribute the relief goods, none complained that it was a mere drop in the bucket although there were still villages that were not assisted because these were isolated by floodwaters as of the other day. Some pictures, in fact, showed housewives struggling with a sack full of rice each as they streamed out of the relief centers with happy faces.

I think this was the first time a DSWD secretary was seen in the above-mentioned provinces surveying damages just hours after Typhoon Lawin left the Philippine area of responsibility. And it must have been a great surprise to the people of Tuguegarao City to see Duterte himself in person distributing assistance to typhoon victims.

Taguiwalao was later quoted as saying that there was no need for the government to ask for foreign aid for the typhoon victims because it had the funds to cover relief operations for northern and Central Luzon.

“We are not asking for foreign assistance or donations from other countries because we have identified enough government funds to help the affected families,” she added.

But she added that the government was not closing its doors to donations, including foreign assistance without asking for anything in return.

Senator Ralph Recto could only agree with Taguiwalo, stressing that with P37 billion in unspent calamity funds, there was indeed no need to go knocking for foreign aid.

This was a 160-degree turn from the position the Philippine government took when it opened the floodgates for aid to help the Yolanda victims in 2013.

As it turned out a substantial bulk of the assistance never reached their intended beneficiaries, were spoiled or claimed by the elements while some of the intended funds went to the wrong pockets.

Taguiwalo herself said about 200,000 typhoon Yolanda victims from Western and Eastern Visayas have claimed that they were still waiting for the shelters promised to them by the Aquino administration.

She said the exclusion of emergency shelter assistance for Yolanda victims was so widespread the Duterte administration is now investigating alleged irregularities.

 “The spirit there is we don’t want any form of irregularity, of any corruption,” she said. “Our marching orders from Day One were to provide prompt and compassionate assistance and fair treatment to communities.”

In Northern and Central Luzon last week, that prompt and compassionate assistance indeed stood out. As the western writer Louie L’ Amour was wont to say: “She will do to ride the river with.”

Posted in Opinion