TACLOBAN CITY-There is a trace of bitterness in the words of Jet Cananes, 40, a public school teacher in Palo, Leyte as he continues to wonder why until now he, along with his colleagues, has yet to receive the full amount of the promised housing fund for education employees who were hit by supertyphoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.
“It may be quite inconvenient to admit but honestly speaking, my house is not yet completely fixed two years after Yolanda. Considering our economic condition, we still need more money for our housing needs. I hope that the housing fund promised to us will be completely given the soonest time,” said Cananes, whose town was one of the hard-hit areas due to Yolanda’s wrath.

In January 2014, the national government through Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Secretary Julia Andrea Abad, daughter of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, issued a guideline for the release of the housing reimbursement assistance taken from President’s Social Fund which ranges from P100,000 in cash for the repair of totally or heavily damaged houses and P30,000 for partially damaged.

The fund is said to cover employees of the Department of Education (DepEd) who suffered devastation due to earthquake in Bohol and supertyphoon Yolanda. Cananes recalled that they, under the first batch, only received the first tranche of the financial assistance sometime in September 2015 after complying many requirements, while others who are not yet included in the first batch are also waiting for their first release. Efleda Bautista, convenor of the People Surge, an organization of Yolanda survivors in the region, lambasted the government for the delay in the release of this financial assistance to teachers.

“It is disheartening to note that the teachers were not spared of the criminal neglect of this government. It can be recalled that the only ‘relief’ that they received two weeks after Yolanda were beauty kits – lipstick and make up” – not a single centavo nor a single grain was received by the devastated teachers from this government,’’ said Efleda Bautista, retired educator and convenor of People Surge, the alliance of storm victims in Eastern Visayas. Bautista noted that in availing the fund, one has to present requirements, they had to sign waivers if there were more than one government employees in the family and worse there were also complaints of ‘dagdag-bawas.’

“Many teachers were excluded from the list of beneficiaries. Worst of all, the disbursement followed the procedure of ordinary selling – ‘two gives.’ While the first ‘give’ happened after all the hardships the second ‘give’ is still hanging,” she added. As the campaign period is about to start, Bautista feared that “this second ‘give’ may not happen at all.” “Let us not forget, we are teachers, not beggars. Let us unite and stand for our rights,” she said.  Meanwhile, Jasmin Calzita, DepEd regional information officer, said that the delay could be traced before the PMS saying they have submitted the documents consisting the names of the intended beneficiaries.

“The list was from the PMS. On our end, we did our best to request for reconsideration for those who were not included in the first batch of first tranche,” Calzita said.
Asked who could be held liable for the delay of the fund release, Calzita could not give a clear answer. “We cannot tell if it is the national because they also have timeline and protocol of processing the documents. Remember, it’s not only Region 8, there are other regions which were also affected and the fund is not only for Yolanda but for the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu,”Calzita said. She also appealed for patience and understanding for the said delay. (RONALD O. REYES)