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.

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