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Why some Yolanda survivors didn’t get relief goods

Tacloban, Leyte—Whenever he found the time, the late Chicago Mayor took a swim at a private club immediately after lunch during his regular workday.

Upon returning to the office at around two in the afternoon, Daley, who served as mayor from 1955 to 1976, was met by an official so special that he was the only one carrying the title in all of the city governments across the United States.

The official was called the “Director of Patronage”, a position “unique to the Chicago City government,” the late American journalist Mike Royko said in his book entitled, “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago.”

The director of patronage presented a list of new city employees to the Chicago mayor, Royko said in the book (which, by the way, is also the title of another unauthorized biography of Marcos crony Eduardo “Danding” M. Cojuangco, Jr.) “Nobody goes to work for the city, and that includes governmental bodies that are not directly under the mayor, without Daley’s knowing about it,” Royko wrote. “He must see every name because the person becomes more than an employee: he joins the political machine, part of the army numbering in the thousands who will help win elections. They damn well better, or they won’t keep their jobs.”

Although no such position exists in any branch of the Philippine government, the anecdote best explains just how—and why—several thousands of typhoon Yolanda survivors were unable to regularly receive relief goods at all.

Or at least that’s according to members of People Surge, an alliance of Yolanda victims.

As recent as June this year, the alliance maintained that several communities in Pinabacdao and Calbiga towns in Samar were left to fend for themselves after only receiving relief goods just once in January this year.

For its part, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has always said that it has distributed relief goods to all its beneficiaries (a move that will end this month). Except that the agency may have been unable to track down, let alone, provide assistance to hundreds or thousands who need them most, a government consultant who refused to be identified said.

One might ask why this is so. The consultant simply stated: some of the victims may have been undocumented, which is to say that they were not given “green cards” or documents that entitled them to receive relief goods.

How, then, does one qualify for a green card? There lies the rub.

First, you must live in an area that is within 50 kilometers of typhoon Yolanda’s path (What if you lived 51 kilometers away and yet the typhoon left your life in shambles?). Second, you must secure the green card from your barangay captain.

But it’s not that quick and easy. What if you voted for the wrong candidate during the last barangay polls? What if you were affiliated with the political rival of your barangay candidate?

Given the highly-politicized nature of the transaction, what are the chances of Yolanda survivors getting their green cards then? Depends on how they voted, the consultant said.

If they rooted for someone else other than the winner, their chances were no different than a political rival landing a job in the Chicago city government during Daley’s 21-year term.

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