A Fragmented Marawi Relief Donation Campaign Not The Best Model

IMG_1952At the church services I attended this Sunday, there was a second collection specifically designated for Marawi relief operations. It is just one of many efforts to help those affected by the terrorist siege of this Mindanao city.

When calamity or misfortune befall upon our countrymen, we are inclined to reach deep into our pockets to show our unity and concern for the victims.

But as with any other relief campaigns, there are important things to consider when choosing where to course our contributions, among them accountability and capability.

The Office of the Vice President seems to have mastered the art of begging.  Seeking donations is their automatic response to national and local issues, despite the fact that it does not really have the infrastructure and resources to manage the contributions.  “Partnering with other organizations” can only add another level of bureaucracy that can cause a delay in helping those in need.  Besides, the OVP has not proven itself to be truly committed to transparency and accountability.  Think about its refusal — even under the Freedom of Information (FOI) — to divulge Leni Robredo’s travel fund sources.

It is also quite common for the news media to conduct a donation campaign among its readers and subscribers.  This works well for donors who love to see their names printed.  It does them good on their resumes.  But when such a campaign is conducted by a newspaper that owes the government billions of pesos in unpaid rent, then we start to question the integrity of its efforts.  Yes, we’re talking about the Inquirer.

While most Filipino Catholics have full trust in donation campaigns organized by the Church, there are those who are uncomfortable handing out extra in a Sunday second collection. Part of this discomfort stems from the fact that the Philippine Catholic Church is among the largest investors in the stock market.  Shouldn’t it be setting aside amounts from that investment for relief and emergency operations rather than turning to the collection basket each time?

Of course, there’s the Red Cross which is recognized worldwide as the premier charity organization.  It has the resources and infrastructure to deal with emergency and relief operations.  Although its reputation is sometimes tarnished by leaders or personnel managing its operations, it pretty much is a safe institution to make your contributions.

Then there’s The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).  Again, because of its reputation under previous administrations, Filipinos seem hesitant to make their donations to this government agency.  But change has come under the leadership of Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

In fact, DSWD did not rush to seek donations in the aftermath of the Marawi siege.  It had the resources and infrastructure — as it should — to deal with the needs of the victims.  It also has the advantage of calling upon its fellow government institutions to facilitate relief — from rice supply to transportation and communication to rescue operations.

But DSWD stood out among all donation seekers when it reminded donors to be “culturally-sensitive” when making contributions, noting that most of the victims are Muslim brothers and sisters.  This graphical reminder from Secretary Taguiwalo shows a well thought-out and truly competent response to the emergency.

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But the bottom line for an effective relief campaign is to discourage fragmented operations.  Rather, there should be ONE central point through which donations are coursed.  This would ensure that contributions reach those who are most in need in a timely manner, and that what they receive are things that they really could use.  It would also be easier to demand transparency and accountability if we’re dealing with a single agency rather than multiple, smaller — or even fly-by-night — donation seekers.

From all indications, that ONE central point should be the DSWD.  If there had to be a second organization, we would recommend the Red Cross.

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