Of punishing looters during disasters and substandard bunkhouses


Rep. Rodolfo Biazon

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon

Perhaps seeing how the people in Tacloban reacted when the tsunami-like devastation wrought by killer typhoon Yolanda practically left them homeless and without food, then ransacked and looted commercial establishments, now comes Muntinlupa Rep. Rodofo Biazon proposing the imposition of stiffer penalties on looting as a deterrent to the crime, especially during times of calamity.

But, as a rule, robbery is already a crime, as mentioned in the Revised Penal Code, which contains the general penal laws of the country.

Biazon is said to have explained, however, saying, that while there are laws that punish looting, the penalties are not enough to discourage potential violators.

The public understands this, no doubt, but only if the disaster was not as massive, destructive and widespread, that it totally shutdown local government for days because the local officials themselves were victims.

But, Tacloban was different and looking at it now, without local authorities governing and the national government responding and taking over at a snail pace, the situation simply called for survival and what happened was lawlessness.

While the action taken by the hungry and desperate people may be wrong, one can’t help but ask if heavier punishment is what is needed to deter looting for the victims and their families to stay alive, more so when there is no functioning government existing.

It is along these lines that I think Biazon’s proposal for Anti-Looting Act of 2013 should need further studies and that comedian cum Senate Deputy Leader Vicente Sotto III should not just swallow it hook, line and sinker.

Rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson (inset); Bunkhouses

Rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson (inset); Bunkhouses

Now, who should be heavily penalized instead, if proven guilty, are those unscrupulous individuals, either from government or the private sectors, who are tasked to build bunkhouses as temporary dwellings for families left homeless by super typhoon Yolanda while they wait for the construction of their houses, but are already taking advantage of the situation and practicing corruption at the expense of the poor victims by constructing, allegedly, substandard bunkhouses for them.

It is encouraging that rehabilitation czar, Panfilo Lacson, is on top of the situation as he said he is “quietly” investigating  the  overpricing  and  kickback allegations in the construction of  the bunkhouses after receiving reports that the project was riddled with anomalies.

The kickbacks, he said, allegedly ranged between 30 to 35 percent.

Lacson said his office had already gathered documents pertaining to alleged overpricing and  under specifications of  bunkhouses but they have yet to compare these with the official documents from the  office of the Department of Public Works  and Highways (DPWH).

It is bad enough that the bunkhouses gets too crowded for a family of three or four, which was the intention of having 8.64 square meters/unit, but to build it with substandard materials is not doing justice for the victims, as well as for those who have donated money for the same purpose of building decent temporary dwelling places for the poor people, now or in the future.

Those exploitative agencies/individuals involved in this noble endeavor should be the ones that should get the brunt of the law if proven to have violated the building specifications.

No need for studies anymore as material evidences will prove it.


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