Pinoy-style ambag-ambag not enough: You need military might and precision to manage the Yolanda disaster

So was the disaster wreaked by Typhoon Yolanda God’s fault? That question and the whole topic of Filipinos’ faith in a Catholic god is of course a no-go-zone at the moment as we all need to be “positive” in the face of the appalling tragedy unfolding before us courtesy of “The Situation Room” set up by CNN in Tacloban. But nobody can ignore just how unlucky the Philippines has been. Just a few weeks before Yolanda laid waste to Tacloban City in Leyte, a Magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit nearby Bohol province killing hundreds and destroying cherished church buildings. And before that, in December 2012, another killer typhoon snuffed out more than 2,000 lives in Mindanao.

Truly reassuring: U.S. military personnel mobilising to aid Yolanda victims

Truly reassuring: U.S. military personnel mobilising to aid Yolanda victims

On the man-made front, equally appalling tragedies abound in the Philippines. Warlords who kill people and bury them with backhoes languish in judicial limbo, politicians who diverted tens of millions in Filipinos’ hard-earned taxes are likely to not just get away with it but get re-elected in the next elections, and company directors of a single shipping line that owned several ships that sank along with tens of thousands of innocent passengers remain at large.

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But of course. Yolanda, a tropical storm that breaks all historic power records, is a “test” of the Filipinos’ “faith” and “resilience”.

The outpouring of compassion and the mobilisation and channeling of resources coming from Filipino benefactors all over the world is heartwarming. Facebook and Twitter timelines are flooded with charity appeals. Indeed, when it comes to responding to despearate need, Filipinos are champs. Pinoy Bayanihan rocks!

But then nothing beats the big supply- and equipment-laden C-class transport planes and dozens of navy ships and their crews of well-trained military personnel being sent by the United States and Great Britain when it comes to tangible hope for results. Even with a lot of money pouring in from Filipinos all over the world and volunteers packing relief goods in warehouses across the nation, doubts abound as to how much of all this goodwill actually gets to the people who need them the most. The grassroots relief effort (spurred by “social media” many would like to think) is a nice bottom-up approach that strongly appeals to the need for the warm fuzzy feel-good vibes people seek in times of grief.

As far as the sort of command-and-control needed to get things done effectively and efficiently, that sort of “crowdsourced” ambag-ambag relief just does not cut it. For the very same reason that emergency situations call for emergency — i.e. dictatorial — powers, you can’t manage a disaster at the scale wrought by Yolanda with mere prayer and good intentions. You need military precision and its rigid no-frills, no-debate, no-emo command-and-control leadership approach.

As Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte astutely observed, “God was somewhere else when the typhoon hit”. Perhaps, indeed, God should step back and let competent humans do the job that Filipinos had traditionally relied on him to do. Unlike God, Mayor Duterte makes no promises beyond what his resources are capable of delivering…

He had ordered a team of 911 relief workers and rescuers to bring medicine to Tacloban by land on Saturday afternoon. The team arrived in Tacloban Monday morning, after they hacked and cut their way through fallen trees along the way, and cleared some roads of debris.

Duterte said he was right in sending a medical team to Tacloban but said they would be useful only for three days because of the enormity of the need. He said the next team to be sent should be composed of people who know how to handle cadavers.

Indeed, there is no substitute for the institutional might of a competent national government. And that is why news such as this bring real hope to Yolanda’s hapless victims…

Britain is sending HMS Daring, which will be equipped with a device to convert sea water to drinking water, to Philippines to assist in rescue and relief work. Britain is also sending a Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft that would expedite teh transport of humanitarian aid to the typhoon-hit areas in dire need of supplies.

To expedite rescue operations, the US was sending an aircraft carrier USS George Washington to Philippines, which would reach there in 48-72 hours.

According to a statement, 5000 sailors and over 80 aircraft were onboard USS George Washington and crews were being recalled from Hong Kong to be on their way to the Philippines.

British Prime Minister David Cameron Britain said the UK is also sending a Navy warship with equipment to make drinking water from seawater and a military transport aircraft.

In just four paragraphs we get a relatively clear sense of the specific resources to be mobilised, the specific actions to be taken, and the specific capability to be applied to serve Yolanda’s victims. Certainly the prospect of this awesome contingent of world-class equipment and personnel (directed by a clear chain of command) reaching the Philippines over the next day or two is more reassuring than the sight of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas directing traffic on the streets of Tacloban — or motherhood “assurances” coming from President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III.

The current Philippine national disaster response capability is to the approaching US/British contingent as the jeepney is to a modern public transport system. Whilst Filipinos patted themselves on the back for decades for the “ingenuity” of the iconic jeepney, the “system” built on that quaint “solution” eventually became the bane of efforts to build modern public transport. By all accounts, the same sort of thinking is what has turned the Philippines’ disaster response machine into the inutile excuse stammered incoherently by Filipino politicians and waxed poetic by Filipino “netizens” today.

60 Replies to “Pinoy-style ambag-ambag not enough: You need military might and precision to manage the Yolanda disaster”

  1. Here comes the writer Benigno who sees nothing good about us Filipinos.Instead of bring solace and inspiration to my fellow Filipinos this writer has a habit of maligning and insulting our Filipino traits and values. He is the modern makapili or traitor to his own nation as if he knows everything and our fate revolved around his pessimistic writings. Enough of your doomsday writing. May I recommend that you commit Hara Kiri so much so that you could serve our nation well.

    1. Here comes an idiot who would rather look at the positive side of things, while people hit by Haiyan are suffering.

      Did you even read the article? Every point he made was clear and real, and you are saying he should instead inspire and bring solace to people?

      Which part of the article insulted you? So if you know better than him, why not write down your rebuttal here instead of whining like cry baby.

      These ijets, come a dime a dozen, jeez!

      1. Again, missed it (the point) by millions of miles. Will somebody take off the emotional blinders of most of our countrymen? They are fooling themselves! All in denial. How can you get better if you deny you are sick?

    2. NO, NO, NO….the Man is a Patriot who tells the truth about what is going on in that ‘Klepto-cratic’ country. Just because you can not handle the truth does not make the Man a traitor.

      I do not always agree with Benigno but he tells the truth, as he see’s it, about what is happening. It is not pretty and for his sake I hope he no longer resides in the Philippines. The country is one big disaster after another. If it is not a man made one (PDAF,DAP/corruption in general, over-population/garbage everywhere one looks) it is a natural calamity(earth-quake/typhoon) that is making the country un-fit for human inhabitants.

      Smartest thing anyone could do right now, at this very moment? Leave the country and never return.

      1. “Smartest thing anyone could do right now, at this very moment? Leave the country and never return.”

        Very tempting. I came to here to help with a family business and to get in touch with my roots. Years later, I’m still adjusting (from culture shock — quite traumatizing at times).

    3. In related note, I find no solace with my fellow, affected kababayan looting TV and washing machine in times of crisis. I’ll understand that they’ll loot for food, water, or clothing to survive the tragedy. But looting non-essentials appliances when the power is down? Seriously?

    4. It is bewildering to me why complaining is so taboo in the Philippines. Democracy works best when we ask hard questions and hold our leaders accountable.

    5. I disagree. I’ve read much of his writings and he often points out the “good” qualities of the Filipino. He, like many of us, are frustrated because we know things could be much, much better. If we follow the admonitions of the majority we would never discuss the problems. Silence and platitudes will yield nothing while the country continues sliding backwards.

    6. Had You ever heard of Constructive Criticism. We Filipinos need it a lot of it because we never learn. The truth hurts but its the only way we can learn to correct our fatal mistakes. if it weren’t for my Brothers in Arms assisting and the whole international community aiding this massive relief effort. More Filipinos will be dying and starving. SWALLOW your what you so called Filipino False Pride. Pitch in and help your fellow Kababayans. Now is not the time to whine and complain.

  2. I don’t think the author is being pessimistic at all. Isn’t it weird how other countries are so active in helping us whereas our government seems to be doing nothing but delaying aid and “meeting meeting” lang?

    1. “Meeting-meeting lang” because plain and simple – the politicians don’t know what to do. Think of it this way – toddler was task to plan and execute in constructing a house. If they don’t know what to do – they should stop pretending – just transfer the responsibility to the military. At least the military has a better chain of commands and most probably better crisis management (if w.out the politicians intervention).

      1. Thank god that The American Military had arrived . I m eternally grateful and appreciative for my brothers in Arms for providing humanitarian assistance and helping our kababayans.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that the development of world class systems for these events must be solidified.
    However not all of us can be leaders and politicians. True, much is to be required for most, if not all of our leaders and this should hopefully (though I won’t be surprised if it does not materialize) be tackled at another time.

    My comment on this article is this- most times, the only solution us normal citizens have is to provide our share in relief operations.
    We do not have the power to change government and good luck into pleading for the government to listen to us, but for now, especially in a situation such as this; small contributions from normal citizens help- and this effort multiplied can make quite a significant difference for one or two lives.

    Is it enough? Of course not. But it is better than nothing and it seems to be the only solution available when there are a ton of constraints due to the inefficiency of government.

    1. There are only so many more instances where being resigned to “government inefficiency” will fly. The Philippines has supposedly been a democracy since 1987 so you’d think that the government by now would better reflect the collective interests of its constituents. That it doesn’t to this day says something about its voters.

      1. Agreed. But sadly, most people who voted for the current leader came from those who lack critical thinking due to lack of education. It’s a spiral that I do not see improving.
        I do not know about your background,you may be rich or whatever; but I am but a normal working citizen and I do not know any way to help those who have been ravaged by the storm other than to contribute a share.
        It sucks, and it’s painful to hear and even harsher to think about it, but then; what other positive action as a citizen can we do?

      2. benign0, MLZ

        Notwithstanding the complaints Filipinos have voiced over the decades about our (supposedly) democratic system, it is legitimate to argue that Government is grossly inefficient and that ample evidence abounds showing it is incapable of delivering the services it promises. Forcing accountability — “reflect(ing) the collective interests of its constituents” — only goes so far. There is in this the assumption that “the collective” is “correct.” But what if “the collective” is WRONG? Even if we elect “honest” politicians and appoint “competent” bureaucrats to government positions, there is NO guarantee that they will be any more effective or efficient at serving the people. That is evident in even the so-called “first world” societies. We’d still be working at trying to make a massive BLOB of a bureaucracy, with several overlapping layers, work efficiently. Under no circumstances does this happen in the real world.

        You ask what can be done? It might be time to look at bringing in PRIVATE SECTOR SPECIALISTS to replace a government infrastructure that attempts to do ALL things at once without having the requisite expertise to do specialised work like disaster management. Instead of having government agencies come into a disaster area with shovels and pickaxes and tarpaulins to carry the dead, we’d be better off with a private agency that can bring helicopters, boats, and other rescue vehicles, digging equipment, and even cadaver dogs. They would be more professional than the resources we have now. And we’d have the added benefit of holding these people accountable, with the power to fire the private contractor — even hold them criminally liable — if they do not perform as advertised. Unlike our current situation where we cannot just “fire” our government agencies.

      3. President BS Aquino and, for that matter, the Philippine Government seems to have become irrelevant in this instance. Foreign relief operations have taken over and will likely handle the job more competently.

        1. And that’s probably best for all those concerned. A desperate man isn’t going to question where the 2.4 billion Pesos for the relief and rehabilitation effort is coming from.

        2. And a desperate man like Aquino will probably be looking to take the credit for “facilitating” the distribution of such aid.

  4. The Philippine government’s response to Haiyan shows that the country is still third world, though we refer to it as “developing”.

    1. Aryianna, love… developing is the polite term for third world ^_^ and as my 60+ year old prof used to say… “bata pa lang ako developing country na ang Pilipinas. Hanggang ngayon developing pa rin”

  5. As the late Nick Joaquin has encapsulated in his article, this is the product of the Filipino’s “A Heritage of Smallness” mindset.

    We demand the state to step up to the plate after this disaster. If local government (and of course the bigger burden falls to the national side of government), cannot and would not ensure the safety of people when calamity strikes then they are plain and absolutely useless. Elect engineers and architects next time in office instead. Do not rely on these “trapos” (traditional politicians) that come from established oligarchic families that absolutely has no idea/background nor knows how to implement long-term civilian defense systems. We DO NOT HAVE ANY NEED FOR SUCH USELESS INDIVIDUALS to take office and play stupid roles in government, whether on the local, or the national level. We are talking about people’s lives here, not banal politics…

  6. Sooner or later, faced with the contemplation of God and the question ‘Why’…
    Romans 1:18
    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

  7. Where is the President, should he be in Tacloban
    where they need at least moral support…Is it because the previous President’s wife is from

    I just hope that those aids from other countries will reach the deprived Filipinos..Let us keep a GOOD reputation !!!

  8. the greatest shame of all is that the country has had all the money it would have needed over that past 50 years to make the country a SE ASAIN GIANT, but it was all stolen. DANG!

  9. An anatomy of a disaster.

    The real disaster, which is the pnoy aquino government, should be strung up for their absolute lack of response, incredible insensitivity, sheer incompetence,and for hiding under the desk at a time when leadership is needed, leaving the whole ‘problem’ , by default, to decent countries/people to, yet again, come to the aid of the scam artists/idiots in government.

    The aid agencies/international community is naturally only to willing to help, but it does expect to find some people in government who have a clue, or the vestige of a plan. No chance.

    I am currently organising some international aid and have gained a first hand insight into what i can only describe as a government/people without dynamism, flexibility, or even passion, and more like headless chickens concerned with blame games and avoiding even getting involved and, heaven forbid, getting their hands dirty. Despicable individuals, and that starts at the top with pnoy aquino and mar roxas and their kkk, who were never up to a simple job and now are suddenly unavailable when the going gets tough. Even their phones go unanswered.

    The final insult and indicative of the disgrace that is this kindergarten government, was that the aid/food provided by international agencies, and packed by local volunteers, had to be put in DWSD printed relief bags – DWSD wanted to make it appear that they were helping when they were nowhere to be seen. The bastards.
    No doubt photo opportunities in due course.
    May they rot in hell for their deriliction of duty and care, and the number of additional deaths which are directly at their door

  10. I see a lot of able-bodied young men just waiting to be assisted or simply running away from the scene. Why don’t those men just start by helping clear some roadways and areas instead of just sitting around and waiting for foreign assistance?

    Now is a good time for Napoles and her political benefactors—senatongs and tongressmen, to give back what they stole from the public. What happened to all her NGOs?

  11. I don’t believe in a God, who is all to blame, when disasters, like this happen. We caused the disaster, by abusing Mother Earth. We denuded its forest. We destroyed its mountain. We invaded the habitation of animals, for human housing sites, due to exploding population. Mother Earth is fighting back, with : storms, earth quakes, tsunamies, volcanic eruptions, etc. “if there is an action, there is always an opposite reaction”…this Planet Earth Physics law will always apply.
    To Mar Roxas: while directing traffic can win some votes, by pandering to voters. You would had better shown your talents by good planning to coordinate the relief of the coming disaster. A 245 mph Super Typhoon was already on the way. What did you do, with Aquino to anticipate the coming havoc, it had caused? We have many traffic policemen. We need a good DILG Secretary; who can give results. Not DILG Secretary who can direct traffic.
    I blame still , Aquino and Roxas, and even Binay for not planning for contingencies on this calamity. They are all responsible. A good kick on the asses of these idiots, will wake them up. It’s not time to play politics, dudes.

  12. Heard that LaMierda and some Senatongs are appealing to would be donors specially cash that they channel their cash donations trough the DSWD of Dunky Soliman or to the Phil. Senate.
    If this will be the case, we are just Appointing Dracula to be the Head of the Blood Bank.

  13. get a life…everyone is in anguish and yet you have time to project yourself to be a self critical rightious special asshole..get out of here.

    1. @ kupee

      In case you don’t know, this site has been “self critical rightious special asshole.” for years if not for you idiots being so emotional, throwing tantrums whenever you get butthurt, pulling the country down instead of helping.

      What do you want people here to do then, direct traffic in visayas, like Mar Roxas? It’s very easy to say to other people to do their part amidst the aftermath of the typhoon, but really, what does it really mean. Aside from donations, there is not much people can do. But I tell you one thing though, if people like you had a different perspective years ago then maybe, this disaster could have been managed more efficiently than it is today.

      I am really beginning to get sick and tired of idiots telling other people to do “their part”. The truth of the matter is, ever honest taxpayer have already done his/her part. All the funds needed for such calamities comes from our tax money and should be utilized properly by the government WHICH IS NOT HAPPENNING. If ever i feel compelled to help SOME MORE, then that is doing MORE THAN MY PART. Which I already did BTW.

      ……. What? You want me to go there and dig up corpses from the rubble? Ijets.

  14. “Command and Control”, something the Student Government knows nothing about. A perfect example would be the actions taken by US Army General Russel Honore’ during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The confusion and bickering between the Mayor of New Orleans, the Governor of Louisiana and the President notwithstanding; once General Honore’ hit the ground, the bullshit stopped and shit got done! Now, since this IS the Philippines and there is no one in the Chain of Command (from Aquino on down) who has the resources and/or balls to “take charge” and get shit done, people turn to foreign entities for hope. Sadly, the US Marines (among others) can not simply take control of the situation since this is a Sovereign Nation. They have to depend on the permission, direction and wisdom of the National Government of the Philippines which is headed by a man who is completely out of his depth. However, I would not be surprised if the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3rd MEB) says “fuck it” and initiates air-drops to avoid the bullshit that is the Philippine process of looking busy but doing nothing (i.e. Mar Roxas). A very telling fact as to the actual state of this country’s disaster response is this: The US Marines on the ground right now in Tacloban (not including the US Navy Carrier Group en route), which is a mere Company (about 200 personnel) out of a Battalion (about 1,000) out of the Brigade (about 5,000 personnel). This Company of the USMC 3rd MEB in Tacloban has more Lift Capability than the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines! The Philippines has “military might and precision” but it is on loan from countries like the United States of America.

  15. P-noy’s administration is simply incompetent. Been listening to the news, there is little to no national government presence in the affected areas. He has to be impeached.


    While it is all well and good we’re getting aid, the fact is, it should be our government and our people who should be spearheading the efforts. Right now, the Philippine Red Cross has more communications capabilities and is doing more for the people than the NDRCC and other alphabet soup agencies.

    I’m floating this idea again: For the love of God, impeach P-noy. I don’t we will last another three years under his government.

    1. Impeaching him is impossible at this point since he still has the congress under his control. Its much better to just kick him out of malacanang.

  16. Pedro: Wala pa rin daw napasok na tulong doon sa Tacloban..

    Juan: Bakit?

    Pedro: Kasi sa pilipinas, palaging “leyt-e”.
    Pedro: Kelan kaya maaayos ang mga nasira ng bagyo?

    Juan: Kelan?

    Pedro: Sa bagal ng pagdating ng tulong edi next “samar”.

    Obvious bad jokes..but they need money and funds instead of hand-me-downs. It is hell on earth out there.

  17. All the NDRCC has been doing for the past three years is “procurement.” Word from the grapevine is that actually planning is none existent. The result is what we see today.


    I would like to see this article in a positivr light but wtf does he mean by what he said?

    They are still in the process of identification of barangays that need help? The hell? Its been 5 days and they are only starting identification?

    Wasnt an aerial survey enough? And what use is a device called a gps for if not to tell you that you are in the said spot you are looking for?

    I understand that we are not as well equipped, but I really expected a lot of the military engineering teams to be headed there day 2. Police will only assist, the military is what is needed in this type of disaster. I really dont understand it.

    Make floating piers out of the prefab panels that float (forgot what they were called but they are being sold locally). That way point of entry can be by sea, even if bit by bit.

    Whats slowing response down? Are they waiting for labelled containers for each released relief good pack?

    Yes, yes, I know there are those who will I ask what I have done to help. But you are asking the wrong question if thats your defense and shield. You are not in the position to place yourself higher thinking you’ve done more and that does not givr you any priveledge to belittle concerns like mine.

    Think of it this way, this was a locality where technically the national government is still able to function to help and they can point blame to the LGU. What if it instead hit manila? Thrn both LGU and national govt would be crippled far too much and the safeguards are not in place.

    The NDRRMC is a joke. Its just a shell of what it should be. Scrap that damn agency. Labelling an office to function as such does not magically mean they are functioning as intended. A major overhaul is really in order. Thats the bottomline.

  19. And the reason I believe they dont want to name a point person in government is very simple.

    Its not because the work is dissemenated/distributed, that is obvious. That’s how a team works.

    Its because no one wants to be the team leader for the post disaster response that is being bungled by the government.

    I dont expect it to be the president, nor his spokesperson. But I would expect it to be the head of the ndrrmc as it is his job. He would be the one all agencies would turn to for the proper course of action to take.


  20. Suddenly, I remember a scene from the Hollywood film version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, where an old professor tried to appeal to the alien as to why the latter must not ‘pull the plug’ of mankind’s dim and flickering light:

    As for da Pinoy, How many times must he be “at the precipice” before he would finally evolve? Or better yet, must he wait for another major cataclysm before he starts to get his collective excrement together?

  21. Yolanda was God’s test upon the Filipino people. And it was His instrument to show us how weak and incompetent the government is.

  22. philippine goverment the president are suck they just to collect, give-give when time towork seem among them start hide their asses/ and pointing fingers

  23. Seriously confused about blaming God, dear Author. I love your posts but this is an oddity. I commend your posts. But God has different ways of moving so let’s not speculate. Humans yes we can speculate.

  24. Divine act or not, force of nature or not, the situation in this country was never peachy. The Philippines is sick and it has been so for generations already.

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