President BS Aquino 3rd has declared the Philippines in a state of national calamity. However, I know many who believe that the Philippines should declare him a national calamity instead. Considering how he has consistently acted so insensitively and thoughtlessly when the desperate times call for clear thinking and inspiring leadership that he has failed to provide, such a declaration merits deep consideration.
Early in his presidency, BS Aquino was scored for not spending even a second to visit a place devastated by national calamity. Now, I feel those critics were wrong and he was correct in not going to the calamity areas. Look what happened when he went against his natural instinct and visited places like Cebu and Bohol where he stayed for a few hours and was even shown laughing with the quake ruins as backdrop, and, most recently, Tacloban City where he again had his tantrums. He should have just stayed home in Malacañang and played video games for he hasn’t been of any help anyway. Those visits were meant to shore up his sagging image and credibility. Instead, they tarnished his image further.
One of the most sympathetic words I had heard about Typhoon Yolanda victims came from a foreigner leading an NGO concerned with the welfare of children. He said in an interview with CNN that about 95 percent of Tacloban City had been devastated by the typhoon and the ensuing storm surge, and that the city is lucky that many are still alive. Compare this to that caustic, unfeeling comment of BS Aquino to a Tacloban businessman seeking his help for their security: “Buhay ka pa rin, di ba?” (You are still alive, aren’t you?) Or when he found the calamity an occasion to lash at his political enemies whom he unjustly accused of failing to prepare adequately for the strongest typhoon in recorded history of the world.
Politics intrude into actuations
He had called for closer coordination of relief operations between local and national agencies, which is right and proper. Yet he refused to have the Tacloban mayor by his side, in the same manner that he picked his defeated candidate for mayor when he visited Cebu City after a temblor had hit that city. How can the appropriate coordination be effected when BS Aquino lets politics intrude in his actuations?
And how about his walkout from his own press briefing when he didn’t like what he was hearing? This was the same reason he had cited why he didn’t like to call Cabinet meetings— he didn’t like to hear bad news from his Cabinet members. I heard some say he threw a tantrum when he realized that he had to use the government’s entire “savings” for relief operations, thus leaving him nothing to give to lawmakers under the supposed Disbursement Acceleration Program.
BS Aquino’s blinders had initially prevented him from acknowledging the extent of destruction wrought by Yolanda. Why, the place became so miserable to stay in that the two Cabinet members he had sent to Tacloban went scampering away from the place. Inexplicably, he singled out the Tacloban City Jail as reason why he doubted estimates of how the typhoon had laid waste to most of the city. At that time, television stations, both foreign and local, had already shown videos of the merciless, relentless pummeling of Tacloban and other places by Yolanda. Why should his politics color his judgment? We don’t need a president whose tongue is faster than his brains or his eyesight.
Speaking of teevee coverage, one local reporter showed her ignorance of geography when she said “Iloilo and Panay” were hardest hit. Iloilo is in Panay Island. Another, a veteran at that, reported excitedly that the eye of the storm was already in Tacloban as he pictured the strong winds buffeting the city. As far as I know, the eye of the storm is very calm. It has neither strong winds nor rain and could even show clear skies.
Ah, but such errors in reporting could be easily glossed over, the same way that I was not horrified at the looting that took place in Tacloban. When there is a conflict between the right to live and the right to property, the former should always prevail. It’s not thievery or criminal bent that drove the typhoon victims to loot but sheer desperation for their survival. This, however, does not justify the looting of appliances as these could not be eaten. The victims’ survival would not be helped any by television sets they had looted.