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GMA misinterpreted COA report – Atty. Jasper Lucero

CITY LEGAL counsel Jasper Lucero has de-bunked a GMA news story that was aired on national TV this week and printed on its online version claiming that the Commission on Audit (COA) found more than P 7-million worth of relief goods spoiled in Ormoc.

“We debunk that these goods have expired and that they were not distributed,” Lucero said.

Lucero asked GMA News Onine editor-in-chief Jaemark Tordecilla to rectify the story of one Anna Felicia Bajo, saying it sent a wrong message to donors.

Lucero described the story as “erroneous” and “sensationalized,” which “misinterpreted” the COA annual audit report of 2017 that is now available at the agency’s website.

The lawyer said that, “obviously, the news report was based on the COA an-nual report” which was “misinterpreted” and “no effort was used to reach LGU-Ormoc for clarifica-tion.”

The lawyer points out that the on Page 73, No. 9, the COA observed that ““Relief goods purchased using the CDRRM Fund costing P 7,846,245.49 re-mained undistributed at year-end, contrary to Sec-tions 2 (p) and 19 of RA No. 10121 and Section 2 of PD No. 1445, thus the purpose for the procurement was not attained and such goods may have already expired.”

Lucero underscored the word “may”, emphasizing that COA was just talking of a future possibility.

“For the record, there are only 35 tin cans of sar-dines in our stocks that were spoiled, probably from transport, and their expiry dates are yet on 2019. They were delivered by BOSS, a reputable store here which has committed to replace these 35 cans as is the practice. In practice here, any goods purchased by the City, especially pre-positioned goods for ca-lamity response that could expire because no calamity happened are to be replaced by suppliers,” he said.

“Our city was swamped by donations of concerned citizens and since the needs of our calamity victims, especially the earthquake victims, are long term, it was decided to judiciously distribute the relief goods regularly so that they are now swamped with so many relief goods at one time and then suddenly, nothing,” Lucero added.

“Until now, the city continues to distribute these relief goods to these earth-quake victims. On January and February, there was distribution, which was suspended on April and May because of the election ban. We have resumed distribution and next week, we will have the fourth distribution for the year consisting of family packs with 6 kilos of rice, 4 cans of sardines, beef loaf, and corned beef each, and 4 packs of noodles to the 2,272 families,” he further explained.

“As for the observation that the goods were not properly stored, “causing them to rot”, we again debunk this misinterpretation of the COA report,” the lawyer continued.

“Mayor Richard Gomez ordered all relief goods, City-bought and donated, to be stored at the City Hall lobby where the “Incidence Command Post” was stationed. This was so that everything was transparent and for everybody to see. He called on civic organizations and NGOs to join the City Disaster Response effort and be in charge in receiving donated goods and recording even the City bought items. The Civic Organizations and NGOs also helped in the distribution of the goods. Efforts were made that the goods were evenly distributed, and that no area in the city gets “better” donations than the others,” Lucero explained.

Lucero also challenged GMA News to go around Ormoc City and talk to leaders of civic clubs here like the Rotary Club of Ormoc, Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay, Kiwanis, Ormoc Chamber, and other organizations as to “how transparent and equitable the receipt/distribution was.”

“Had there been relief goods worth P 7.8-million that were spoiled, it would have been easily seen by the public,” he said. Lucero also bemoaned the immediate publication of the story without asking the side of the City, saying it can send the “wrong message.”

“We are a city that is very vulnerable to calamities, and we appreciate the help of the private sector in the relief efforts. Even your GMA Kapuso Foundation has witnessed our transparency in handling relief efforts,” he said.

On the other hand, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Ciriaco Tolibao Jr. also clarified another news report stating that a big bulk of the city’s disaster funds went to acquisition of vehicles. Tolibao said the report probably was referring to Ormoc’s five new ambulances and a rescue boat.

Tolibao said these ambulances were expensive, yes, but also useful in saving the lives of people. “Kulang pa gani,” Tolibao said, adding they still need to acquire more vehicles and heavy equipment for the Ormoc Rescue to respond to emergencies and deploy manpower and goods.

He said that in the July 6 earthquake, Mayor Gomez deployed the Ormoc Rescue to nearby Kananga to help extract victims from a collapsed building because they were the only rescue team to have expanders. “These are expensive,” Tolibao said.

Tolibao said that if all of their funds were used to buy relief goods, “unsa man amo gamiton paghatod anang mga goods sa mga biktima?” (How can we deliver all those goods to the victims?)

Tolibao said Ormoc’s Rescue Unit is one of the best equipped in the country. In fact, this week, the CDDRMO had the Rescue Unit of Sorsogon City as visitors. They were in Ormoc to study the city’s “best practices.”

Mayor Gomez, who welcomed the Sorsogon rescuers said that the “CDRRMO is an expensive office” but it was necessary because they save lives. “Gastos kaayo ning opisina ni Tolibao,” he said.

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