It’s a fact that the top two officials in the land are at odds with each other since they took office as the President and Vice-President. Based on the Philippine Constitution, the vice-president does not have a specific function. Often, the VP is offered a cabinet position, and this was what VP Robredo got.
VP Robredo was appointed by President Duterte to be the chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). She quit her post in the Duterte cabinet after she received a text message from Jun Evasco, Jr., Cabinet Secretary. He said he was only relaying Duterte’s instructions to Bong Go for the VP to refrain from attending all cabinet meetings beginning on December 5. Robrero said that it was the last straw and announced on the evening of December 4 that she would resign from the cabinet post effective December 5, which was a Monday. VP Robredo also claimed that she faced many obstacles while performing her job as the chairperson of HUDCC. She cited three major obstacles. The 2017 budget for all primary shelter agencies was slashed by over P19 billion. There was no action on the recommended appointments of principal shelter agency posts. She added the non-approval of Executive Order (EO) would make the HUDCC more effective.
Having tendered her resignation from her cabinet post, Robredo said that she would focus on the job at hand – helping the poor and the marginalized attain their dream of a better life. The “how” is not mentioned.
In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Nina (international name Nock-Ten) that swept through most of the Bicol Region on December 25, 2016, many are still without homes and most lost their sources of livelihood. They are still struggling to survive and rebuild their lives and their livelihood.
In a recent visit to the areas devastated by Nina, Robredo said that aid from the national government is very slow in coming. Moreover, without the additional funds from foreign donors and aid agencies, the rehabilitation funds from the local and national government and the local private sectors would not be enough. The national government committed P500 million for the agricultural rehabilitation of areas affected by Super Typhoon Nina.
She offered a solution to local officials – to go directly to the foreign aid agencies and request for assistance. She said that she talked with the officials of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and was told that for them to get involved, they require a formal request from the national government. However, the VP also mentioned that she was told by the UNDP and the EU that their agencies are open to requests for assistance provided the local government units (LGUs) will directly send their requests to them. This is what the VP told the mayors of the affected areas in the Bicol Region.
The dilemma is that Duterte already made several pronouncements that the Philippines was not needing foreign aid because it can survive on its own. This is a huge obstacle to hurdle, according to Robredo. She mentioned that there are many foreign aid agencies that are willing to help the country, but are hesitant to do so because of what the President said. The misuse and mismanagement of the huge funds from foreign aid that the country received for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) is also a major a major issue.
No to food, yes to shelter
Robredo was told by the mayors of the affected areas on Friday that what’s more important to the people of their towns are sources of income and having their homes rebuilt. They urgently need building materials more than food. There are 10 towns in Bicol that were severely devastated on Christmas Day.
Accordingly, the DSWD will start distributing P5,000 in shelter assistance to those families whose homes were lost during the typhoon. Robredo on the other hand was thinking that these people, who always lose their homes when a typhoon passes their area, should have studier homes that could withstand the force of the elements.
That was a good thought, although it escaped the notice of many netizens who were more focused on the earlier suggestion of the VP – seeking foreign aid directly. Some said that it was sheer laziness on the VP’s part, getting the people to do what she should be doing. Some commented that it could have been better had Robredo said that the Office of the Vice-President is there to help them. Others pointed out that there are government agencies that offer loans for such undertaking, while others said that the people, including the town mayors are already swamped with problems, and looking for these agencies, their contact persons and preparing requests for foreign aid are too much for them.
What do you think? There really is no concrete solution as the Philippines lies in the typhoon belt. What should have been the proper approach of the vice-president regarding rehabilitation funds if foreign aid is not forthcoming?
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)