The next election is still 28 months away. That’s two years and four months from now until May 2016. But long before the fireworks are lit to welcome 2014 in a week’s time, the public is already treated with political explosives courtesy of propagandists, spin masters, and plain faultfinders.
In most non-media-related gatherings with relatives, friends and acquaintances, I find myself groping for words in trying to explain that I don’t know everything happening around.
It is sometimes embarrassing that I am as confused as they are on many issues that I don’t have direct information about. I am as baffled as they are with the details that I read in different newspapers or hear on radio. Sometimes, the details are contradictory, depending on the biases of the writer, reporter, or anchor.
Has the Philippine media become so free that garbage stories get published online, or printed in newspapers or aired on television and radio? Or has the government become so inefficient and inutile that we get to read mostly critical news and commentaries?
The rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts in Central Visayas, particularly in Leyte and Samar provinces, have been affected by too much politicking amidst hunger, homelessness, and desolation over the loss of lives and properties to Super Typhoon Yolanda and the storm surges that followed.
It is undeniable that national and local government officials failed miserably in immediately addressing the needs of the survivors for food, shelter and assistance in looking for missing or deceased relatives. Partisan politics was played at its dirtiest in the aftermath of the monster typhoon.
The blame-game and finger-pointing between Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas 2nd and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez Jr. while many families remained unserved had worsened the situation in the area hardest hit by the monster typhoon. President Aquino joined the picture on the side of Roxas. Romualdez played to the cameras by shedding tears during a Senate committee hearing to lambast Roxas.
For three days last week, my sister visited her company’s business outlets in Leyte and Samar. She was disturbed when she came back home. Six weeks after the November 8 onslaught of Yolanda, the stench of dead people still pervade the air, triggering allergic rhinitis attacks. The situation of families living in tents and the survival stories of their employees brought her to uncontrollable tears. She must have acquired post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the short time that she went around the two hardest-hit provinces.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the death toll from Yolanda had risen to 6,100 as of December 20, with Eastern Visayas, the most devastated region, accounting for 5,746 deaths. Despite the rising death toll, the number of missing remained at 1,779 while the number of injured was at 27,665 people.
At least 3,424,593 families or 16,078,181 people in 12,139 villages in 44 provinces were affected, while 890,895 families or 4,095,280 people were displaced. Of these, 20,949 families or 101,527 people remain in 381 evacuation centers.
Damage from the world’s strongest storm in recent history was estimated at P36.662 billion—P18.268 billion in infrastructure and P18.354 billion in agriculture. Yolanda also damaged or destroyed more than a million houses. The NDRRMC reported that the government has so far spent P1.185 billion in assistance to the affected families.
My sister wondered where the billions of pesos in donations from other governments, business entities and private individuals from across the globe had gone, or was going. Have the pledges been delivered? She was worried that the monies would end up in the pockets of politicians and unscrupulous people in private organizations, instead of the typhoon survivors.
My sister represents ordinary folks passing by what looked like a forsaken place. She’s not a political person but regards politicians with respect, at least those who deserve it, according to her judgment.
She wished aloud that government officials and journalists would just do their jobs properly without any biases and with the interests of the larger segment getting primary consideration.
She minced no words against journalists, or those who introduce themselves as one and especially those who wear oversized press IDs, and the legitimate ones who use the airwaves and the social media to pass off rumors, biased opinions, and innuendoes as truth against the government.
I squirm when relatives and friends relate unpleasant stories about media persons and government officials, and share their disgust over their attitude toward the public they ought to serve; those who brandish their sirens and IDs to violate even the simplest traffic rules and get past security check points.
And I feel uncomfortable when ordinary folks come for help with appointments, financial or medical assistance, and endorsements of people I may have known; those who think that a press ID can be a ticket to avoid getting apprehended for traffic violation, or a gate pass in government offices and charity agencies.
These sad realities make me ponder on the future of this country in the hands of the present crop of politicians, and with a growing number of journalists who seemingly or conveniently set aside long-held standards and ethical practices that separate them from those called hao shiaos and netizens.
The events after Yolanda unleashed her fury in Central Visayas should finally wake us up from slumber in the next elections. We are getting a glimpse of the prospective wannabes. Let us not forget what they had done and have been doing to deserve our votes, or to let them retire from politics altogether.
Meantime, let us enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus and hope for a better and brighter new year. Cheers!