Is Aquino trying to block Pope’s visit to Tacloban?

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Is Aquino trying to block Pope’s visit to Tacloban?

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Nothing could sound sillier. But it is the first unavoidable reaction to President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s announced decision to close down the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport on the first anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, which nearly wiped out the city of Tacloban on Nov. 8, 2013.

Pope Francis is coming in January precisely to visit Tacloban where thousands were killed and nearly the entire population was displaced by the strongest typhoon ever recorded anywhere. He would like to meet with the victims. Now, for all its fury, Yolanda failed to completely destroy the Tacloban airport, and a determined city government has managed to put in quick repairs to make it tolerably operational. But what nature’s wrath had failed to put away, presidential politics is now about to.

It is a crying shame.

I went through the airport last month on my way to and from Borongan, Samar. I was quite impressed with the service it managed to provide, despite the scars of Haiyan/Yolanda and the ongoing repairs. The carousel where you collect your luggage was half-battered, and needed replacing, but it still worked somehow. Everyone smiled and had actual words of welcome for every incoming visitor. Just in front of the airport, men and machines had done considerable progress in preparing the huge open space where they said the Holy Father would celebrate the Holy Mass for and with the victims.

Now, if the Tacloban airport is to be closed down, will this happen before the visit? Will any part of the proposed Palo airport be ready by then? Will the activities being planned for Tacloban be relocated to Palo as well? Or is there a plan to divert the Pope’s plane to the big airport in the former US military base in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and relocate all his activities there? The idea is completely mad and unthinkable, but although this is a Church activity rather than a State affair, one could never predict what Aquino is capable of doing. On the first anniversary of Haiyan/Yolanda, Aquino chose to visit Guiuan, whose mayor is a close ally, and to completely skirt Tacloban, where the typhoon victims have become rabid critics of Malacañang.

There are so many questions on Tacloban. Since I do not have the answers, I have to pass them on. Will Malacañang please provide the answers? To begin with, what is the real reason for closing down Tacloban? To shut it down as a gateway to the Visayan region? But why? Simply out of pique—because Aquino could not stand the thought of the Romualdez-Marcos political clan, whom he regards as his enemy, being shown worldwide on prime time television, receiving the papal entourage and attending the Eucharistic celebration with all the typhoon victims?

A Malacañang insider advanced this insight after the media coverage showed Mayor Alfred Romualdez, his first cousins Congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Sen. Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos, and his aunt Congresswoman and former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos at center stage of the Nov. 8 commemoration. The sight of this powerful clan on prime time TV and on the front page of some newspapers reportedly caused a fit inside Malacañang.

The whole thing goes back to the now-famous encounter between Mayor Romualdez and Aquino’s bumbling action man, Secretary of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, after Haiyan/Yolanda flattened Tacloban. Roxas had wanted Romualdez to surrender his control of the city government in exchange for national government assistance in the rescue and relief operation. Romualdez refused to be bulled and stood his ground. At this point Roxas said, “You must understand you are only a Romualdez while the President is an Aquino.”

The discord grew when “People Surge,” a group of typhoon victims led by a religious sister, traveled to Malacañang to ask Aquino why the victims were being starved of assistance when so much money had poured in from foreign governments, institutions and other donors. Aquino responded by telling the protesters that if they could afford to travel to Manila, then they didn’t need any assistance at all.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was not of much help either, when he invited Aquino and Mayor Romualdez both to the global summit on climate change at the UN headquarters last September. Romualdez won his audience with his clear and down-to-earth presentation on how to handle future disasters, while Aquino delivered some motherhood statements before a scattered audience of 32 individuals inside a small room at the UN. Then Aquino’s entourage noticed that some of the “People Surge” activists who had marched to Malacañang had been given some kind of UN accreditation.

Even before Yolanda struck, the Tacloban airport was already being programmed for closure. While Malacañang was talking of upgrading the country’s tourism infrastructure, it was simultaneously defunding the airport, by realigning a big portion of its funds to some unknown and unlegislated recipient under the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court has since declared unconstitutional.

Now, just who is this Daniel Z. Romualdez that a major airport should bear his name? As one foreign relief worker coming to Tacloban asked a local guy, “Was he also shot at the airport that bears his name, just as Ninoy Aquino was at shot at the one that bears his?” No? Why then is the airport named after him? Malacañang could very well have been the one asking. Well, he was simply one of the great Speakers of the House of Representatives when one could still talk of that office with some pride as a citizen. But if that’s the reason the airport has to be closed down, perhaps we should then rename it either as Ninoy Aquino International Airport II or as Corazon Cojuangco Aquino Airport.

The real question I want to ask here is, why do we need to be so petty in the face of great and noble things? In Palo, where Pope Francis is expected to bless the newly reconstructed cathedral, Mayor Remedios Petilla, mother of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, has come in for severe criticism for attempting to relocate some 250 families of typhoon victims from their present bunkhouses to a far-away location where the Pope would have no chance of seeing them. The move is reported to have elicited a strongly worded letter from the Vatican asking the mayor to desist from relocating the victims.

While waiting for my flight at the airport last October, I met my friend Ramon Pedrosa, who said he had come down from Manila to talk to the mayor who, in collaboration with Malacañang, was using the papal visit as an excuse to build a road right through his family’s 200-year-old ancestral home. What Haiyan/Yolanda failed to destroy, the mayor seems determined to extinguish, he said, using the papal visit as her excuse.

I have not heard from my friend since, but I have a feeling that if the mayor persists and Pope Francis hears about it, he would not at all be pleased.

fstatad@gmail.com

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34 Comments

  1. I admire Kit Tatad but in this article he is strongly biased. This really reveals his “roots.” First, how can the President block the Pope from visiting Tacloban? The Holy Father has wants this. Speculations on this score is pure and simple politicking. If ever, it would be some people from Tacloban who would not want the Pope to come to Tacloban for “political” reasons. Secondly, the Pedrosa house in Palo is not 200 years old. It was a public library until the Pedrosas had it transferred to another place. Now they are claiming it as “public library”? Anyway, Tatad should see the condition of the house nowadays. It is already an eyesore. Why did the Pedrosas not “secure” or “restore” the house immediately after the storm? Now they they are not doing anything to preserve even the wood and just exposing them to elements. Why could they not even put a temporary roof and walls? Their motives now are questionable. By the way the Pio Pedrosa and even Tatad as former government officials should have known the law regarding the “widening” of the national roads. Why not object to it then? Other families throughout the years have complied. Why not they.

  2. Pnoy administration quaking in their pants what the outspoken Pope might say regarding rehab efforts of gov’t. Abangan!!!

  3. The national government does not want to repair the damaged Tacloban airport so that it would be very difficult if not impossible for the Pope to go there. That simple.

    Pulitika na naman ang inuna ng mga gunggong.

    • @art: The NATIONAL GOVERNMENT repaired our damaged Tacloban Airport, in case you do not know. They we’re with us during our lowest times at di po kami iniwan. Without the National Government’s help, and all local and international organizations, DI PO BABALIK ANG SIGLA NG TACLOBAN.

  4. We can no longer expect anything at all from noynoy. Cause, anything that pops out of his mind, he will insist on doing it cause, he is the one who thinks he is the best!

    Let us see what happens when the POPE arrives!

  5. Its like a spear that lodge directly to our heart. If Malacañang plan were breached and it is true about their plans – Pres. Noynoy Aquino – , removing airport that was not confirmed and he says it in front of the people. Did you confront or ask other advice before you express it publicly. Or maybe those people around him (Noynoy) are faggots. Filipinos mostly tacloban don’t deserve your attention maybe or the word TRUST and RESPECT among the filipino people slowly taking away. Your propaganda about corrupt politician is almost good “but” in this situation being taking out seriously by exercising your Executive Power as a President dealing with your family RIVALS the MARCOSES are so obvious. We the people of tacloban are dismay on your part. From the beginning we felt helpless about what Mar Roxas deal our city government forcibly eliminates and concluding a totally malfunction government and keep bargaining the deals which is not relevant to the victims of the typhoon. they forgot maybe the emotions of the victims. Blocking the popes on its way this coming January would reflect in the whole world what kind of governance we have today. It is very clear for us that he who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool. Helping and mostly Prayers and guidance is our need. Set aside family rivalry for the sake of our nation who helped us rise, and let them (NGO’s) feel our warm thank you.

  6. Where is the logic of this news? The plan to transfer the Tacloban Airport was made before Yolanda struck our city. It was officially communicated to our Mayor ALFRED ROMUALDEZ last Jan. 2014 by PING LACSON, & was included in the master-plan of the city which was presented in Cebu. The Mayor DID NOT OBJECT to the transfer because, according to him, he is more concerned with its positive effect to the whole country & the safety of our people. (Pls. see his interview with ANC channel with Pinky Webb dated Nov. 13, 2014). How could Pres. Pnoy blocked Pope’s visit to Tacloban? Another gimmickry employed by a PAID writer TATAD? For the INFORMATION of my dear Taclobanons, the writer Francisco Tatad was the former Press Secretary of Pres. Marcos. KAMATA NA KITA!

    • That’s right. Many young filipinos today do not know that this reporter Francisco Tatad was the media manipulator as Press Secretary of Pres. Marcos during Marcos martial law days, just as Joseph Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

    • Says the noytards above me who are nothing but paid hacks only to attack those who criticize them. Who is the nazi now?

  7. Religion is putting the Philippines down. Stop this insanity.
    Your imaginary friend God will not help you from this miseries
    because he doest’t exist. Instead of praying asking your god for
    Blessings why not do something, like working harder to make a living.
    Use your head and common sense.

    • That’s blasphemy my friend. I am not trying to engage in a word war but rather to understand what makes you believed God don’t exist? Don’t you feel his presence right now?

    • @Ka amboy,

      There is God and he forgives us and saves us.

      The night before Typhoon Yolanda i prayed the rosary and on the day of the Tyhoon Yolanda. When sea water rushed inland it rose up to height of 1-2 story house– my family do not know how to swim but God saved them and they rushed through the second floor of my neighbor house- there they were being rescued.

      Yes, there is God and Jesus Christ- his son and his Holy Spirit.

  8. PNoy has a clout on the local catholic church heirarchy. It should be remembered that Archbishop Soc Villegas, CBCP President and Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, are on record Aquino allies since the Cory time. With his influence, PNoy might be the reason that Pope Francis’ visit in the Visayas is abbreviated. Imagine only 6 hours will be spent in Leyte and then spend several days in Imperial Manila. No mention of an itenirary in Bohol, devastated by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and Cebu, who suffered both calamities, earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda. I’ve heard of an invitation letter for the pope’s visit in Bohol and Cebu personally carried by the Nuncio bypassing these two prelates. I’ve still a deeper faith to believe that the Vatican is not the harlot persistently mentioned in some endtimes websites.

  9. With the Marcoses, Imelda and the Romualdezes in the worldwide media limelight, Pnoy has envision this glare of klieg lights on the Marcos clan which he feels will overshadow his Presidency and the Aquino name. Thus, Pnoy will definitely avoid Tacloban for the Papal visit and scare the Pope of possible terrorists attack. Pnoy is so vindictive and politically immature that he will divert the Papal visit away from Tacloban.
    This autistic President will stubbornly insist with Papal representative that Ta lo ban is not the place for Papal visit and benediction. Let’s wait what happen!

  10. Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte both made presentations on the posible venue of the Papal Visit before Vatican officials sometime in July or August of this year.It was the desire of Palo, Leyte mayor Remedios Petilla to have the Papal Mass at the Government Center in Palo. Eventually, Tacloban City airport was chosen for the Papal Mass. Shortly thereafter, on Sept. 3, 2014, Tacloban DZR airport was closed for commercial jet aircraft on the supposed complaint of pilots that the runway had so many damaged pavement. I left Tacloban for Manila last Nov. 7, 2014 aboard a CEBPAC turboprop as it seems that no work is being done on the runway and we could not feel a bumpy take off. Parang naayos na yung Tacloban DZR airport runway. Mas damage yung airport during Nov. and Dec. 2013 (after Yolanda) yet so many big C 130 and commercial jets were using the airport. We Taclobanons could not understand the real reason. For us, it is plain politics. The problem with Pnoy is that he is “hawak sa leeg” ng mga Petillas. It is okay with us if there is a change of nomenclature from Tacloban Daniel Z. Romualdez to Carlos Petilla airport. If this can make Pnoy and the Petillas happy, then it’s no big deal.

  11. I appreciate your sentiments towards Taclobanons. I have nothing to say. All your observations were correct and accurate. We the Taclobanons could not anymore expect a help from the Aquino government. It is very ironic that the Malacanang is here in the Philippines, but the helping hands we see and first to respond to our needs were came from far places i.e. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, US, Britain, to name a few. But if you will see in the television and radio, they grab the credit sa mga alipores ni Aquino. Sana tamaan ng kidlat ang dapat tamaan kung sino ang mga sinungaling, kulang sa pag-iisip at mga walang isip.

  12. kit if the ramon pedrosa you are mentioning in your column is related to the carmen pedrosa’s husband, who if i recall is from palo, then do not be surprised. you very well know that carmen was the one who raised the issue of mental sickness of somebody powerful, hindi ba?

    • I would assume that Ramon Pedrosa is the son of Don Pio Pedrosa & Doña Luisa Acebedo Pedrosa.. Their ancestral home is the iconic Palo Public Library which the famous referred point in Palo for turning left if you going north to Carigara-Ormoc city or south to Abuyog or Southern Leyte. The Pedrosas are famous for being accomplished & financially-well off yet unassuming & never flaunted who they were before other Paloanos. I’ve heard from my old school friends that the mayor wants to bulldoze the Pedrosa to give way for road widening which is part of her “Enchanting Palo” project. Our ancestral land had been dissected in half which destroyed a private fishpond to give way for a diversion road that very few vehicles use even now. This was a project of another Petilla. We are still waiting for financial compensation which 8 of my relatives will never enjoy. They perished during typhoon Yolanda because storm surge was not included nor translated to a simpler term in the typhoon warnings.

  13. it would seem that aquino is trying his best to alter the scheduled visit of the pope. from news reports i read a few days ago, the repair of the tacloban’s airport runway is being done at turtle speed. i wonder how the americans were able to use the airport runway for relief operations and the cnn jet landed there after a few days of yolanda’s fury and yet the repair is taking soooooooooooo looooooooooooong.

  14. If the Pope indeed bypasses Tacloban, it will not be that BS in Malacanang that should be blamed- he is what he is after all- but the Church in the Philippines for allowing it to happen.

  15. I beg to differ from you. Not that I support or adore PNoy, but his father is indeed an illustrious hero. Not all anti Marcos are communist. The label communist becomes acceptable only since Marcos brainwashed the people that those against him are communist. I have known many who opposed Marcos’s dictatorship and left the Philippines for Hong Kong, China, Canada, USA, etc. They are against the abuses of Marcos, the disappearance and extrajudicial killings, the plunders of the Philippine coffer and USA aid, the extravagance of Imelda with the approval of Marcos, oversea numbered bank accounts, etc., etc.
    Please, refrain from labeling those against Marcos. Marcos was great at the beginning of his presidency, but power and ill-gotten wealth went above his head. He became ruthless and abused democracy, let alone ignoring the Constitution. He made his Constitution to suit his desires for power. He declared reprehensible, abusive Martial Law.
    By rhe way, Binay was also in cohort with Marcos. He knows how to play the game and then become the “adopted son” of Cory, the unsaintly “saint”.

  16. Nohing to be shocked about if PNoy blocks the Holt Father’s visit to Tacloban. his is the only Filipino official–let alone president–who has decided to openly campaign for the Kissingerian cultural and racial-imperialist policy of decimating third world children so that the Western Alliance would continue to dominate the world. That is why Aquino fought for and won in the passage of the Reproductive Health Act.
    He is the only president to act against the Constitution’s and democratic tradition of equal separate three branches of government and has personally acted to portray judges and justices as garbage.
    He is the only president who has placed both houses of Congress in his pocket.
    He is acting like a Caligula. But his wrongdoings are not written and spoken about by the most successful newspapers and broadcast networks because the owners of these are his friends and are counting on his patronage to make them richer.
    He is the only president who has the PCOS machine in his arsnal to guarantee that his group of anti-Republican democracy and Elite brigands can dominate Philippine poliics for a thousand years.
    Pray for a miraculous solution to this grave problem of the Filipino people.
    God Almighty, have mercy. Help us, please rescue us from the satanic rule of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino.

  17. No sir, Mr. Tatad, mischievous PNoy simply forgot that the Pope is coming early next year or he still does not know that the Pope is coming at all. He simply parroted what his handlers want him to say or do.

  18. Rogelio C. Lim on

    Bakit hindi gawin ang ika-apat na National Transformation Council meeting sa Tacloban City upang lalong makita ng buong bayan na dapat na talagang bumaba sa kanyang puwesto si Noynoy dahil sa kriminal na kapabayaan sa mga biktima ng Typhoon Yolanda

  19. Mr. Tatad, I am not surprised at all by your well-founded suspicion that the Abnoy seems to be blocking the Pope’s visit to Tacloban. The Abnoy is not beyond such underhanded machinations; he, being propelled chiefly by envy, and vindictiveness. Historically speaking, the Romualdezes have by far upstaged the Aquinos in terms of having “illustrados” in their ranks.The Marcos children included. True, there was the martyred Ninoy but he was also a communist. And the Cojuangco’s…..well, there was Isidra Cojuangco and we all know what she was famous for. Could the family’s mental strain have descended from her as a “karma” ?

    It is sad that religious fervor is not one of the tiniest bit of grace of the family of the Abnoy. The family should have been able to advise their misdirected kin not to make it difficult for the Holy Father to touch base with the unfortunate and uncared for victims of Yolanda. It is also sad the Abnoy doesn’t realize that no force on earth can stand against the will of God. Not even his political and dubious machinations can thwart what God wants for the people of Tacloban.

  20. mikhail hieronymus on

    Mr. Francisco Tatad, the answer to your question is as clear and bright as the morning sun. For what reason is Pnoy closing the airport, let us read the statement of Mar Roxas: “You must understand you are only a Romualdez while the President is an Aquino.” I rest my case.

  21. Kit Tatad should write the Pope at the Vatican. Really!!! It would be immensely powerful if the Pope mentions the Pinas gobyerno ruining ancestral homes for road improvements.
    Now some would say “meddling….”, but maybe Kit Tatad can ask the Pope to intercedes in this Aquino-Romualdez bickering (and then publish his letter to the Pope on Manila Times).

    • I agree. it hurt to know that our city is trying to down by abNoy. he act so childish and hatred all over his heart.