Friday, November 15, 2013

AFTER the storm

We do not and cannot criticize that
1. The government has issued sufficient warning that the coming typhoon is strong. It has.
2. The president and his officials had asked the people in the Yolanda's path to evacuate ahead of time. True.
3. The government had allotted massive resources like food, water, medicine, and personnel for relief-and-rescue after the storm. Yes, but it failed to deliver them.

The president and his officials were not expected to have stock knowledge of the destructive effect of a super typhoon of Yolanda's strength and magnitude. In fact that knowledge turned out to be useless: Maps gathered from past storms through the years -- to help predict the probable paths of landfalls -- did not even indicate Guiuan as a possible site, and that's where Yolanda made her first landfall before going on to Tacloban and four other sites.

That said, it is the tendency of people with facts to expose people who cause, through their actions and inactions, harm to the lives and welfare of the citizens. In this case, the president is the man responsible for entrusting the welfare of the victims to DND chief Voltaire Gazmin, DSWD chief Dinky Soliman, DILG chief Mar Roxas and DOH Secretary Ona. PNoy and those three are the cause of the chaos and hunger in Tacloban and other areas. Although they cannot be blamed for the deaths and damaged wrought by Yolanda,  they must answer for what they have done and have not done for the victims AFTER the storm.

Everyone is a genius in hindsight, true, but we, and the victims, and mediamen local and foreign who had been to Tacloban, have been howling since Sunday, AFTER the storm, when it is the government's turn to wield its massive strength and machinery to search and rescue those who can be saved, feed the survivors, heal the sick and wounded. All these acts involve people, and all these must be done immediately, even if we have not rightly assessed the storm's strength and path, even if electricity and communications were down, even if debris blocked the ways in or out of Tacloban, even if Mayor Alfred, Romualdez, Rep. Martin Romualdez, and some barangay personnel are heartless bastards.

For those lives and properties Yolanda has taken and destroyed, Yolanda and no others must be blamed. But for those who died because the government did not act immediately to extract them from the rubbles, feed those debilitated by extreme hunger and thirst, send life-saving medicines to the wounded and severely injured, Aquino, Gazmin, Soliman, Roxas and Ona are culpable.

Why Aquino? Could another president have come out with a different and better solution? Exactly. And there, from that man, unravels the source of the survivors' frustrations and unnecessary hardships AFTER the storm. Aquino is weak-willed, and right after he was elected he failed to keep to his pledge that he will appoint in office only those qualified to hold and execute huge responsibilities. It does not take the strength of a typhoon to sway this president's mind: just a nudge from old family and crony connections got Gazmin and Dinky their positions in the second coming of the Aquino administration. It had been that way in Cory's time; so it is now -- a De Quiros to SSS, Alex Padilla now in Philhealth, former Bulacan governor Dela Cruz to Philpost, Boy Abunda somewhere out there. Roxas, as the Liberal Party's losing candidate, naturally got a slot. Let's see how they administered in Tacloban.

Anderson Cooper and other correspondents' observation that armed forces personnel are usually at the forefront of disasters is not off the mark. In calamities where speed can save a life,  soldiers have the manpower, machinery, training and experience to cope and solve, bringing in lighting, transportation and communications, and dig out survivors and send them to feeding and medical centers, set up by them too if required. DND chief Gazmin was in Tacloban all along, and he did not take over when the Tacloban government officials and police failed to do their tasks. He did not ask for additional personnel to help set up distribution points for food and water, dry clothes and blankets. He let thousands of Filipino corpses rot in the streets and be shown to the world for almost a week AFTER the storm.

Aquino -- who arrived in Tacloban one morning, posed for the news cameras while distributing mineral waters to some victims in a designated PR site -- apparently did not ask Gazmin why hundreds of Filipono deads are still lining the streets of Tacloban? He did not ask about the darkness at night because he was whisked out of there while the sun was bright and clear. He was also spared the sight of seeing hungry mothers in makeshift shelters tiredly fanning their hungry children from the oppressive heat. He did not see helpless fathers appeal for food, water, medicine for their family. Victims who lost members of the family did not have the luxury of grieving as they tried to fend off starvation, thirst, and afflictions. Many failed and died, days AFTER the storm.

What Aquino and his officials announced about food is true and remains true to this day: There is enough supply of food and water. Jessica Soho, who was in Tacloban, said she saw the warehouse where Dinky and volunteers were repacking food for the victims. Yet the victims went put to the streets day after day after day begging for relief. Because Dinky (and Gazmin and Roxas and this Aquino) maintained that the local government is the one in charge when calamity strikes. Yet Yolanda had swept away the Tacloban government structure (Aquino himself availed of this fact and used this as an excuse for his inaction), and Gazmin entrusted the repacked relief goods to the barangay head, who obviously kept the goods for a select few, letting the rest go hungry, especially those who did not vote for him in the last elections. Gazmin admitted this on TV Friday morning. Ineptitude marked the Cory government, and Gazmin is extending this to the present Aquino adminstration.

What about Roxas? He is supposed to handle the local government units. When the Tacloban unit was demolished, he could have installed an emergency unit so relief goods, there in Tacloban all the time, can reach the victims. Roxas and Aquino have consistently pointed out that there are not enough trucks, gasoline, personnel, etc., to do the job. So the dead lie in the street, the hungry starves to death, those injured die, until when? Until someone cries, This can't be right! Days AFTER the storm, part of the bridge leading to Tacloban was opened; if Roxas had something to do with that, he did not bring in more trucks, gasoline, personnel to save lives. The roads and bridges are jammed? If Roxas and Gazmin were concerned and frantic about more people dying AFTER the storm, they could have availed of the government's massive resources to clear traffic, to get trucks and gasolines outside Tacloban, even in Manila if necessary. Surely it cannot take six days to clear a path to Tacloban, get trucks and gasoline available outside Tacloban and bring them in? A DOH doctor, fishing for sympathy, told a news reporter that they had run out of medicine days ago, because their supply are still held up in a pier Cebu for four days now. DOH is government, it is supposed to set up a path for medical supplies to the victims, not complain of the supplies being delayed by minor factotums in the bureaucracy. Ona, who had been announcing directives as if he is in Tacloban, has been in Manila all along. People are dropping like flies, and Ona is attending meetings with members of the Philippine Medical Association about the date when thay will go to Tacloban. Thickheadedness can cause death. No amount of apologies will bring back to life those who died because of these officials' lack of sympathy concern for the victims.

Roxas revealed his lack of sympathy for the victims when he traveled to nearby Tanauan yesterday. He reached the barangay and talked to the people, who asked for food and water. Roxas said he came there to assure the people of the government's presence -- six days AFTER the storm -- and that assistance is forthcoming. He had planned to get there, but did he think that the people he would meet there will be suffering after six days without sufficient food, water and medicine? He did not bring any. And this creature Roxas wants to replace Aquino as President. Are not they doing enough harm?

We are howling about that, Not about PNoy's lack of foresight or preparedness. PNoy and his men insist on staying on until 2016. We are shouting and cursing that if they are shameless enough to stay in power, they must at least do no harm to those who still trust them, including those who for personal reasons defend such impeachable acts and inaction. They are fortunate: members of the Opposition are equally thickheaded, and some are also culpable of great offenses, so they cannot oust Aquino and his cohorts. They wait until Aquino delivers us from his trespasses into the hands of Binay.  Another storm is coming.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A kittycornered categorie

"This is Schoppi. He --"


"Short for Schoppenhauer. He gets antsy around people. Must have received some kicks from some before we found him."

Welcome to Kittycorner, the accidental orphanage for cats. Well, they are kittens when we adopt them, but they all grow up to be cats. Lovely cats, too.

"Look at Schoppi's side-whiskers, just like the muttonchops of his namesake. "

"Are they all named after philosophers?"

"Many are, but not all. That's Thoreau, he's a loner and doesn't mingle. Walks a lot."

"You must have felt like Blake adopting Thoreau."

"Yeah, I got the urge to write some essays and do woodcuts. [Laughs.] Ah, here's Pavarotti, look at his girth! His high-pitched meows will astound you."

"[Sings] ♪ Perhaps love is like-a boiled chicken, or a stuffed pair of mice... ♫"

"Haha, that was Placido who sang with John Denver, not Pavi. Anyway, aherm! -- Ladies and gentlemen, here's the Beatles!"

"Really? You've got four mopheads here?"

"No, it's Ed Sullivan. Here he comes. Move slowly, he startles easily. He hunches his back like he's always introducing someone."

"That's some hunch, shoulda named him Bruce Lee. WooO0ohhah!"

"That one in the corner is Bruce Lee. Looks like an upside-down 'U' walking, but can he leap!"

"Hey! Look at that one, he walks with a shuffle and swagger like..."

"Bruce Willis. I can almost see him smirk and make his pitch: 'That die-hard cat's a natural coz he's got nine lives!'"

"That one's nose is kinda huge. Now, let me guess... Durante!"

"Except that's the lady of the house, so it's La Streisand. She's a Ragdoll, soft as an easy chair."

"Wow! What a menagerie you've assembled here."



"Because of Streisand here, it cannot be called menagerie, you see? So I think Categorie fits nicely."

"A kittycornered categorie. Ok. And that cat in the hat is..."

"Theodor Geisel!"

"Huh? Whozzat?!"

"Hehe, just messin' with you, man. Yep, it's Dr. Seuss."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This PNoy

President Noynoy Aquino, his username cleverly compressed into PNoy, can be considered a rarity in the steeply alpha Filipino culture -- truly a man only a mother can love. Many Filipinas will take umbrage at this statement and come to his defense (time and time again this has been so), but none will marry him, or consider becoming his mistress. So far.

Men with strong opinions without sufficient social skill to back them up tend to fall into deep trouble. They are such stuff of which tragedy are brewed. The first Benigno, his grandfather, was a senator even before this country was deemed sufficiently literate to be declared as a commonwealth by its American colonizers. After Filipinos helped drive out the Japanese in WWII, Benigno Sr. and others who had helped run the Japanese Administration's  puppet Congress (he served as Speaker from 1943 to 1944), were charged with treason and collaboration, but MacArthur easily prised them out of ignominy.

Benigno Jr. -- Ninoy -- carried on the senatorial trade for the clan. It is assumed that the old man had political charisma, and Ninoy inherited, and wielded, that great political tool with equally great skill. The volubility, it is also assumed by those who inferred from Dona Aurora's silent demeanor, came from the father's side of the family.

Ninoy talked at a fast clip, charming his way to political prestige and into Cory's heart. Their son, Benigno Simeon, must have been a talkative boy, competing in volume with Kris and three other sisters. Noynoy, people say, also got his father's charm, but not (this is tactfully left unvoiced) the good looks.

Irony is also a hallmark of tragedy. Ninoy -- favored with good looks, wit, and the Cojuangco wealth -- easily became the country's youngest mayor, then governor, then senator. So it was also assumed that he would, inherently and rightfully, replace the young Ferdinand Marcos as president in 1972. (It was a young Marcos who beat the old Diosdado Macapagal, who is to be blamed for siring Gloria, in the 1965 election.)  Martial Law denied the country of the turmoil of a Ninoy administration, but fate finally played her hand, and the twist is undeniably ironic and tragic.

Sent to exile in Boston, Ninoy availed of a grant and talked and talked until 1983, when he decided to return home to replace the ailing Marcos. Ninoy died with his impossible dream, the presidency, which Marcos toyed with for an extended 20 years after his term. It took people stopping tanks with flowers and prayers in EDSA to banish the Marcoses to Hawaii in 1986.

Never in his wildest nightmare did Ninoy even remotely see his wife, the quiet and unassuming Cory, rise to the presidency that he had failed to achieve. To view it in another way: Without Ninoy's dream, struggles, and death, Cory would have remained an unknown quantity in the political equation. Things are not simple as they seem.

Cory ruled. Her speech at the US Congress was boisterously applauded by the American senators and congressmen, who gave her a standing ovation. Back home, she survived several attempts by Enrile, aided by Honasan and the Ramboys, to oust her from office. Powerful men can also be big ignoramuses: Enrile should have known that what fate has decreed will  be done. So Cory stayed as president for her full six-year term, even greeting (in a Valentine's Day radio message) the ousted Enrile a happy birthday to share with her daughter Kris.

Noynoy had repeatedly asked for his mother's permission to run for office, but Cory said no member of her immediate family should aspire to public trust during her term, and Noynoy was a good and dutiful son. In 1992 Cory stepped down, and Noynoy became a member of the House of Representatives in 1998. After three full terms, he leveled up to become senator in 2007.

In November that year we saw Noynoy at the side of his frail mother, heeding the call of Capt. Danilo Lim, Trillanes, Faeldon and other Magdalo officials to kick the corrupt Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo out of office. Fate, it seems, does not make a distinction between good and evil, and so Gloria stayed while cancer slowly rounded off Cory's life. It was Cory's funeral in 2009 that highlighted the possibility of another Aquino presidency, through the third Benigno. And so it came to pass: Death sends another Aquino to the presidency.

Today, millions in the Visayas suffer as a result of a ferocious typhoon's onslaught. They suffer more, people say, because Benigno Aquino III or President Aquino II or this PNoy is inept. Also garrulous. He sure can talk, but he can't perform as well as expected. And why does he paste that inappropriate smile on his face in times of crisis? He had explained that when he is stressed the smile appears, as it appeared when he announced the death of seven Hong Kong tourists and the ex-cop who had hostaged them in Luneta. That was years ago, but China remembers.

A few days ago, this PNoy, his approval rating down by 19 points, made an appearance in Tacloban. He distributed bottled water to the typhoon victims; his smile seemed to indicate that he was handing refreshments to party guests. Can we trust a man who can't control a facial tick to handle the great affairs of a benighted country? Twenty-two countries have pledged millions of dollars to help the Philippines; China, with oriental nuance, pointedly donated $100,000, much less than the NBA's $250,000 aid. This, because Aquino refused to apologize to China over an individual Filipino's offense? Former President Estrada, now Manila mayor, had recently volunteered to apologize, even profusely if necessary, in behalf of the people.

Estrada, of another people-powered presidency, might have been a rogue, he will throw sincerity to the winds if it helps his people, but he is not the president any more. PNoy is. Will this, can this Aquino set aside his strong opinions and beliefs, if in exchange the Filipinos are alleviated of their misery? Or will he be set in his ways, still stubborn and smiling inappropriately, not even aware that there is a crisis at hand, that anger and outrage must be expressed over his bureaucracy's lack of urgency to deliver food and medicine to the starving and wounded victims?

It is the sad history of the Philippines that not one leader since 1521 has loved the Filipinos beyond his self-interest, his own dignity, his opinions and personal beliefs. Not Felipe II, after whom this country and its people were named, certainly not Magellan nor Lapu-Lapu, not Legazpi, not the sultans and datus, not Bonifacio and the uneducated Katipunans. The spouses Diego and Gabriella had the ardor but not the means. Rizal tried but failed. PNoy is president but not a leader. This he has made clear by his actions, or inactions.

If PNoy fails to get more than a mother's love, if no woman will bear a son of his, then the Benigno line of the Aquino tale comes to a close. Perhaps it is fitting it ends this way, to save PNoy's life. After his father Ninoy died, his mother became president; after Cory died he became president. We pray that this Benigno, this PNoy, single or eventually married, lives to a ripe, old age. After Cory's Kamag-anak Inc, after this PNoy's KKK, the Philippines may not be able to survive Kris' Showtime.