Senator Francis Escudero challenged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to investigate and file appropriate charges against unscrupulous individuals who prey on victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” who are supposed to receive the government’s Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) program.

Escudero said the DSWD should seriously look into reports that some Yolanda survivors who have yet to receive housing aid were forced to sign documents indicating that they have availed of the shelter assistance, while others were victimized by loan sharks who connive with dishonest employees of the agency.

“If you are to ask these Yolanda survivors how they feel, they will surely say they’ve been victimized twice: first by the super typhoon and later by opportunists who take advantage of their situation,” Escudero said.

“These immoral and corrupt opportunists, who take advantage of a natural disaster to fill their pockets with money meant for victims, should be thrown in jail,” he added.

ESA provides cash assistance of P30,000 and P10,000 to families whose houses were partially or totally damaged, respectively. The money is used for the purchase of construction materials to repair or reconstruct their homes.

The program, which had an initial funding of P1.9 billion, was intended for families who have not received any shelter assistance from the government or the private sector.

However, there were complaints from beneficiaries themselves that they only received P10,000 even if their homes were totally damaged, and that some of funds went to “fake” or “ghost” beneficiaries.

A number of ESA beneficiaries also complained how loan sharks, in cahoots with unscrupulous DSWD employees, took advantage of them.

These loan sharks would lend cash with 16 percent interest to a potential ESA recipient. The DSWD would then release the shelter assistance not to the beneficiary, but directly to the “financier,” according to reports.