The first few hours and days after a devastating natural calamity like a typhoon strikes an area are crucial. In the first few hours and days, the chances of saving people who have been injured or trapped by debris is higher. In the first few hours and days after the devastation, the focus should be on deployment of search-and-rescue operations and airlifting of emergency supplies.
Needless to say, politics should take a back seat in the first few hours and days after a devastating natural calamity just like what hit six central Philippine islands on the 8th of November 2013. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, politics always comes first. This is especially true with a President like Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino who wasted no time in blaming other people in his first press conference after seeing the destruction in Tacloban City.
Instead of promoting unity in times of crisis, BS Aquino promotes division and disagreements among Filipinos. His vindictive nature is always evident each time he opens his mouth. You can’t even blame his speech writers or handlers for his gaffes because anyone with an ounce of sympathy would think twice about putting other people down particularly when they are still in the midst of a catastrophic event. The source of his frustration could be himself. He was reportedly very confident when he made an announcement that the Philippines is ready to face the super typhoon just before it arrived.
It goes to show that he can be full of hot air even in the face of real danger.
I don’t know what kind of upbringing President BS Aquino had but most decent parents always remind their kids to be considerate of other people’s feelings. Being tactful instead of being tactless is important not just when one is in a public place but above all, when in front of the media. After all, anything one says in front of the media will be printed and broadcast for national and international consumption.
BS Aquino can’t even blame the media or his critics for highlighting his gaffes because he says the most inappropriate things in the most inappropriate times. Even when his critics want to give him a break in times of crises, he does things that compel them to point out his lack of sense and decency.
A lot of Filipinos were outraged when he compared the state of preparedness of Tacloban City against other cities in the areas where super typhoon Yolanda struck. It was equivalent to a child being compared to his other better performing siblings right in front of everybody after failing in something. We all know something like that can crush anyone’s spirits.
At 195 mph, gusting to 235 mph, Yolanda became the 4th strongest tropical cyclone in world history. While advanced countries could minimize casualties because they have adequate evacuation centers, it is more than likely that even modern infrastructure would have been damaged by the intensity of the winds. Besides, it’s not like the Philippines has an evacuation centre in every town. There was just no where for people to hide to begin with.
BS Aquino’s purpose it seems in making people look bad in front of the media is to make himself look good to the public. Indeed, he has mastered the art of deflecting the blame away from himself and unto others after being thrust into the highest office in the land. It is quite a metamorphosis from the time he was described as a quiet non-performing Congressman and Senator and someone who was happy hiding behind the shadow of his much-revered parents, Ninoy and Cory.
A few days after the typhoon left the region, the situation in the areas affected is said to be getting worse. The death toll is said to be an estimated 10,000 and the losses to the region’s economy is still inestimable at this time. Some people who lost their homes and loved ones are said be going mad from desperation. In some parts, the condition can be described as total anarchy with business establishments and private homes being looted and ransacked. There are many people who are calling for the President to call for martial law. While declaring one might be justified, it is not a solution for the people who are hungry, thirsty, tired and lost. They need immediate relief goods to stay strong and fight-off the diseases that will come next due to the rotting corpses everywhere.
At this point, I don’t think I can blame the people who break-in to supermarkets to get some food, drink and other essential necessities. While it is not right to steal other people’s property, it could be days or weeks before relief goods could reach them based on government agencies’ past record of turtle speed operations during crises. The people who are watching the events unfold from their television sets can only imagine the effects of being tired and hungry. Even just one day of missing food and water can wreak havoc on a person’s mental faculties. As one resident put it, the people have lost all their dignity:
On the outskirts of Tacloban, a coastal eastern city of 220,000 where tsunami-like waves destroyed many buildings, Edward Gualberto accidentally stepped on bodies as he raided the wreckage of a home.
Wearing nothing but a pair of red basketball trousers, the father-of-four and village councillor apologised for his shabby appearance and for stealing from the dead.
Empty coffins lie on a street near houses damaged after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city.
“I am a decent person. But if you have not eaten in three days, you do shameful things to survive,” Gualberto told AFP as he dug canned goods from the debris and flies swarmed over the bodies.
“We have no food, we need water and other things to survive.”
“This typhoon has stripped us of our dignity… but I still have my family and I am thankful for that.”
Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon even claimed in one report that relief goods were mobbed in Tanauan, Leyte. Obviously, the victims of typhoon Yolanda are on survival mode. That should be enough reason for President BS Aquino and his supporters to quit the blame-game for now. Leyte Congressman Ferdinand Romualdez had to emphasize that “now is not the time to have a blame-game”. That is wishful thinking when rabid Aquino supporters are involved. Some of them were even quick to remind people on social media about the congressman’s alleged decadent lifestyle during former President Gloria Arroyo’s term. They just can’t resist bringing-up GMA every chance they get.
There are some who say that they understand President BS Aquino’s frustration and excused him for snapping at one typhoon victim and for walking out of the press conference. But an impatient leader who comes across as someone who is not in control of the situation is not what the people need to see in a crisis. The people need to see a calm and collected commander-in-chief who can lift their spirits up when it is down. As the body count continues to rise, the Filipino people don’t have time for a grandstanding politician who acts like a child having a tantrum because Filipinos have to face a very grim path to recovery.
[Photo courtesy BuzzFeed.com.]
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