One of the stupidest things some Filipinos kept suggesting during the height of the disaster in Central Philippines brought about by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) is for people to stop criticizing the Philippine government. For some bizarre reason, some equate the criticism coming from those who were concerned for the welfare of the victims as “negativity”.
The belief that criticizing the government is “unproductive” is wrong. If not for the barrage of criticism the government received because of its slow response to the recent calamity, the assistance to the victims would not have come for weeks. If not for the Filipinos who “complain”, the suffering of the victims would not have been exposed and the death toll would have been much greater. If not for the well-meaning individuals who “questioned” the inaction of the government, the victims would have been walking around like zombies or sleeping near the bodies of their dead loved ones for much longer. As it is, there are already reports that a few of the people who sustained injuries have died because they did not receive immediate medical attention.
There is no question that everyone’s priority should be on the search and rescue operation of survivors immediately after a disaster. But when those in charge of the search and rescue operation are not doing their jobs at all, the concerned members of the public have every right to call their attention to what has to be done as soon as possible.
Some misguided Filipinos even dared ask personal questions like “have you donated money already”? And then there are those who were quick to say, “just stay quiet, be positive and support your government”. It’s like for them, those who have not donated to the victims do not have the right to demand anything from their government. Likewise, there are some who get annoyed when they see others share articles that are critical of the government on social networking sites like Facebook. One can be forgiven for thinking that the reason why some want to remain “positive” is because they cannot wait to resume sharing their selfies. They probably want everyone’s attention on them again instead of the disaster.
Members of the international media played a big role in highlighting the appalling conditions of the victims of the typhoon. If not for them, Filipinos both in the country and those living overseas would not have been aware of the suffering of their own countrymen. Most of the news and images being passed around on the Net covering the areas ravaged by the typhoon came from the international media. Local media did not even have reliable coverage of the plight of those who were suffering similar to what networks like CNN had. It’s quite strange considering foreign correspondents had to travel thousands of miles to get to the disaster zone while members of the local media are already in the country.
Concerned citizens found it odd how slow the local media were in providing updates about the status of the survivors. Local journalists were definitely outclassed by foreign journalists. The latter used their investigative skills in pointedly grilling Filipino public servants during live interviews. It’s something that our local journalists would never think of doing perhaps for fear of getting shot in the head by a motorcycle-riding hit man later. Journalists being gunned down in broad daylight are a normal occurrence in the Philippines indeed, which is why a journalist will not ask the hard questions while conducting an interview a-la Andrews Stevens with a Philippine politician.
The lack of coverage from local media certainly made some Filipinos a bit anxious to know what happened to the people in the areas directly hit by the super typhoon. There was even speculation around whether or not there was some kind of news blackout about the real situation. They left a big yawning gap, which foreign media quickly filled.
The information and in-depth analysis provided by foreign journalists covering typhoon Yolanda shocked the entire nation and the global community. Foreign journalists like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Andrews Steven not only helped expose the incompetence and arrogance of Filipino public servants; they also put pressure on the Philippine government to move a bit quicker. There’s still a lot to be said about the government’s efforts but at least they know now that the people have put them on notice.
While a lot of Filipinos laud the actions of some members of the international media, there were some Filipinos who did not appreciate their honesty. They became defensive and even wrote an open letter to CNN asking them not to compare the Philippines to first world countries like Japan for example. Their reason is that the Philippines is a poor country with poor infrastructure and a few resources. Never mind that the a big part of the reason the Philippines is poor is because its voters keep electing leaders who mismanage the country.
Those who were offended by the straightforward assessment applied by the foreign correspondents seem to be more concerned with image. It has become apparent that they just want to project a “fun” Philippines to the international community. It’s like they do not want anyone highlighting or broadcasting the real state of the poor people and the country’s decrepit infrastructure.
Hiding the real condition of the country never works. Natural calamities are guaranteed to reveal it one way or another. Disasters tend to expose not just people’s capacity to handle stressful situations, it also exposes the fact that the country does not have the capability to save it’s own people.
There is no point in pretending that the country is doing great when it is not. This is something that President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino needs to understand. During his interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he kept reassuring her that things are under control even when reports from other people more reliable than the President of the Philippines contradict what he was saying. He just looked pathetic.
Filipinos who keep saying “stop being negative” every time a natural disaster strikes the country need to stop saying it already. People are not being negative when they state facts and describe the reality they see around them. We cannot continue pretending the country is a wonderful place to live in when more and more people are being born into poverty. These children often end up living in squatter areas that are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions like super typhoons.
Calls for unity and peace every time a tragedy occurs are beginning to look quite suspect especially when the ones calling for these are public servants. In the aftermath of Sendong, a tropical storm that killed over a thousand Filipinos in Mindanao in 2011, Malacañang Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda asked for the same thing when President BS Aquino was accused of negligence in disaster preparedness:
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda asked Palatino to avoid finger-pointing at this time of tragedy.
Lacierda stressed that the government has enough funds for disaster preparedness.
“Let’s not politicize the issue. We have specific funds for disaster preparedness. We have always maintained that we need to clear the esteros and waterways of people there and that’s the danger zone that we have always been emphasizing and that’s the reason why we’re also providing for housing for people in those areas,” he said.
“And, like I said, specific agencies have funds for that so we can address those situations. So I would like to ask Congressman Palatino, now is not the time to point fingers. Now is the time to help out in the tragic incident in Mindanao,” he added.
Obviously, some people like Lacierda just want people to stay “positive” because they do not want to highlight the fact that they failed in their duties to protect the Filipino people. So for the sake of the country, the Filipino people should start being “negative” and continue criticizing their government in times of crisis. Otherwise, public servants will always think they are doing a great job.
There are countless tragedies that happen in the Philippines as a result of natural calamities. Since the foreign correspondents do not go to each one of those disaster areas when tragedy occurs, it can only mean that the victims suffered the same ordeal but did not get the same attention as the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
[Photo of Yolanda victims courtesy NYDailyNews.com.]
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