Exposed: The govt’s biggest boo-boo on the Yolanda fiasco

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A year after the Yolanda disaster, the biggest boo-boo of President Aquino’s top officials tasked to deal with the Super Typhoon remained unexposed, or at least not given the appropriate media reportage. If our Senators are so fond of investigation, this is one issue they should probe—after all, the archipelago, again and again will be hit by super typhoons, and our nation can’t afford this yellow type of blunder.

This gigantic slip-up is, in fact, a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with this Administration, other than its corruption: its arrogance and amateurishness.

Here’s what happened:

Told in Manila on the eve of the disaster that Super Typhoon Yolanda would be hitting Central Visayas on November 8, Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who also heads the National Disaster and Risk Management Center (the command and control center for disaster management), rushed to Tacloban to oversee the evacuation, as well as the rescue and relief operations.


The two arrived at 5 pm on November 7 and after, of course, a press conference at the airport, they called and presided over a meeting of more than two dozen local officials, including the city mayor, Alfred Romualdez, for preparations for the typhoon.

Guess what kind of official Gazmin and Roxas failed to bring with them from Manila, or require the local counterparts to attend the meeting?

Roxas at the meeting in Tacloban 8 pm, the evening before Yolanda struck—not at noon he thought it would, but at 5 am (Subtitles included in the video.)

Roxas at the meeting in Tacloban 8 pm, the evening before Yolanda struck—not at noon he thought it would, but at 5 am (Subtitles included in the video.)

The weather forecasters of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). Worse, neither of the two nor their staff was in contact with Pagasa forecasters. It was like an army marching into battle without a “G-2” intelligence staff, not knowing where the enemy was.

(Pagasa actually has a regional official for Central Visayas and had five field stations in Samar and Leyte. A Pagasa weather forecaster, Salvacion Avestruz, was killed in the onslaught of the typhoon as she manned a weather station.)

In a video of that meeting, Roxas obviously didn’t realize how the weather forecast was critical to their work. He asked in the meeting if there was a Pagasa representative among the more than two-dozen local officials present, and when the question was met with total silence, he just moved on to another topic without giving an order to get the weather forecaster.

Until 10 a.m.
Roxas and Voltaire’s big boo-boo – which actually nearly cost their lives – was that they were totally out of touch with Pagasa and weren’t updated on the movement of the typhoon. In that meeting (video grab above), Roxas said: “We still have 10 o’clock tomorrow morning to evacuate these people.”

(It is a mystery — or another demonstration of confusion at the top rungs of government — why Aquino claimed in his 6 pm televised speech on November 7, during which he boasted that his government has made all the necessary preparations to respond to the typhoon, that it would hit central Visayas that midnight. ["Inaasahan pong tatama si Yolanda sa mga probinsya ng Samar at Leyte simula mamayang hatinggabi,” he said.]

On the other hand, Roxas’ “10 am” November 8 deadline was based on Pagasa’s Severe Weather Bulletin issued 11 am November 7, that Yolanda’s landfall would be at noon November 8.

However, Pagasa would issue several other bulletins in the course of the day, when its stations detected that the typhoon’s speed had increased. In its 9 pm November 7 bulletin, Pagasa warned that Signal No. 4 denoting winds of more than 185-kph would cover Samar and Leyte and many other areas “in at least 12 hours,” which means by 5 am the next day.

Its bulletin issued 2 am was more categorical, that the typhoon would make landfall on Eastern Samar at 5 am.

It was a horrific mistake that would cost thousands of lives. Roxas expected the typhoon to hit at noon; it hit at 5 am. City and provincial officials relied on the national government officials’ information. Everyone went to bed after that meeting, perhaps thinking they needed to build up through sleep their energies for evacuation operations at daybreak. Using the military analogy, because Roxas and his people lacked an intelligence group (the Pagasa meteorologists); they were ambushed… and wiped out.

Two sources claimed that Roxas and Gazmin, after a round of brandy, retired before midnight and slept soundly. By daybreak the typhoon would strike, and after the storm surge hit their hotel, their terrified aides nearly broke down their door to wake them up. Both nearly drowned, as did one local-based security man who was assigned to them.

Gazmin lost his insulin kit for diabetes, and had to be rushed back to Manila through Cebu on the first helicopter available for his life-saving shots. They lost even their satellite phones, which made them incommunicado until after noon of November 8. After Yolanda left by 10 am, Roxas and Gazmin were walking like dazed zombies on Tacloban’s streets just like most victims, toward the airport.

No wonder, when he recovered from his shock, Roxas was in the foulest of moods, and demanded that the mayor turn over the city to him in a meeting two days later. Why? “‘Because you are a Romualdez, and the President is an Aquino,” he barked at the city mayor in a meeting several days later. That arrangement would have been his remaining chance of proving his leadership in a crisis.

It would be kind to describe what had happened to Roxas and Gazmin with those famous two lines from the poet Robert Burns: “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.”

It was more a case of hubris combined with ineptitude, that it could have been a saga for Roxas to demonstrate his leadership to qualify him to be president in 2016, and a savior of poor victims, which would have ratcheted up his ratings.

Instead, it became a horrific nightmare for Roxas that nearly cost his life, and an episode demonstrating one more time the Aquino government’s ineptness and lack of leadership during one of the worst tragedies to hit the nation.

No wonder Aquino was also in a foul mood during a meeting with Tacloban officials and citizens that he snapped at a businessman worried over looting: “Buhay ka pa naman, di ba?” (“Stop whining. After all, you’re still alive, aren’t you?”)

And through the year, the ineptitude would continue in the relief and rehabilitation work. Imagine that, Aquino would approve the plan for rehabilitation only 11 months after?

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao

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45 Comments

  1. Dear Mr. Tiglao,

    As a Yolanda survivor from ground zero Tacloban City, I profusely thank you for exposing the booboos of the President and his inept cohorts in the person of Roxas, Gazmin, Soliman and Lacson. As I browse your timely article, I fully remember the onslaught of Yolanda to my dearest city of Tacloban. If only President Aquino immediately came to Tacloban to see for himself the war-torn like scenes of our City and the people both those dead and alive, with so much mercy and compassion he should bring/command immediately the aids direly needed by my paisanos the poor victims of ST monster Yolanda. If not for the efforts, concerns, assistance and presence of foreign aids and donations, we didn’t know where and how we ever could survive the aftermath of Yolanda! Thanks to CNN, GMA and ABS-CBN for their heart touching media coverage and presentation on air that triggered the so much help we direly need at that time and even until now! Our heartfelt gratitude and sincerest appreciation to them and to the world and nations who willingly, gladly and generously poured out their help materially and financially, which the DSWD hid and exchanged with local, expired and could-not-be consumed by dogs! And much more the incompetency of the national govt blaming local govt.units in the disaster response was truly disparaging and very pathetic! But the TACLOBANONS are WARAYNONS, well known for its bravery and courage to withstand whatever God has ordained. We will not cower to any challenges in our life! We will stand, we will survive, we live according to God’s will, because we believe we should’nt have experienced such strong typhoon if God knows we can’t face it. And we did indeed, thanks be to God’s mercy and compassion, we remain strong with our faith!
    Thank you Mr. Tiglao, you are our hero and defender!

    Sincerely,

    A Yolanda survivor

  2. victor m. hernandez on

    May all those who perished in the onslaught of Haiyan/Yolanda, rest in peace, and may those who were injured, and remain incapable of recovering and sustaining themselves get relief,and continuing assistance from kind and generous people, and from government agencies mandated to provide the necessary assistance to the survivors. No matter after one year, and with slow but continuing help, the p-eople of th places of devastation will rise, with the help of generous people, and government. May we find in our hearts the generosity and courage to help, and care. Salvation comes from helping those in need.

  3. Sana naman next presidential election, yung worthy candidate na ang manalo. Yung may malasakit sa mga pilipino, nasa Pilipinas man or abroad. Mahirap man or mayaman. Naniniwala ako na pag ang pinaka leader ng isang bansa ay magandang ehemplo sa mga tauhan nya, the product will be the same. Kung ang leader mismo ang corrupt e di his followers will do the same. Sana naman maawa na tayo sa bayan nating Pilipinas. Mayaman ang bansa natin pero sa bulsa ng mga hindi karapat-dapat napupunta ang para sa dapat puntahan. Kawawa naman ang bayan natin. Have mercy on Almighty God.

  4. Thank you for this detailed article, Mr. Tiglao. I was getting goosebumps and shaking my head while reading this. As if we needed more eye-opening to the ineptitudes of Mar Roxas and many of President Aquino’s appointed officials.

    Is there really any more reason to doubt that Mar Roxas should absolutely be out of the question for the 2016 elections?

  5. Pnoy and Mar are amateurs pretending to be leaders of this country. Those who voted for Pnoy must now realize they romanticized the death of Cory too much only to find out that Pnoy abhors the dead and the living victims of Yolanda that he cut the counting and wants to hear nothing of it in Malacanang .Walang value sa dalawang tinamaan ng magaling na ito ang mga biktima kundi pang election lang. Takot sa ghosts ung dalawang kumag, projects pa kaya sa Tacloban? Remember they are only Ghosts and Pnoy is an Aquino!,hehehe

  6. Cyril Balungcas on

    It is always commendable for people to air their views so as to bring changes to a country that needs it most. And it should also be noted that views and opinions, especially those aired via mass media can mold other opinions and sway decisions. It is therefore necessary, and ethics demands it, that we always get our facts straight.
    Anyway, the title of this piece caught my attention. I wanted to know what the blunders were and how they can possibly be avoided the next time. But it bothered me that a very simple fact which every journalist can easily check was mistakenly stated several times. That is “Yolanda will make landfall in Central Visayas and Roxas and company went to Leyte to manage evacuation efforts . . . . ” This little mistake erodes the credibility of the whole piece, sorry. And Samar and Leyte are not in Central Visayas.

  7. Not that I have followed all the details, but at least Roxas was there on the ground. As far as I remember Aquino stayed in Manila when he should have been there the next day to oversee it all and cut through red tape, and call in the troops when looting and thievery happened. I also remember that they were blaming the mayor, and that he responded that he didn’t have the resources, but the national government did. In that case it was up to him to hand over control to the national government. You have to roll your sleeves up and take a hands-on approach. If you leave it to somebody else to be the first, nothing happens. Yolanda has shown Aquino to be incompetent, but your story seems biased.

  8. pnoy’s vindictiveness goes beyond politics. if he has a fight with the romualdez clan, then let it stay there. he should not drag the more than 200,000 people of tacloban into the fray just because the sitting mayor is a romualdez. mar roxas was right. pnoy is an aquino while the other is a romualdez. mar roxas having said that, he pretty much meant to say, the hell with the taclobanons. they are pretty much on their own. what a shame for a president. and what a shameless president at that too.

  9. As for me, all those who died will be imbedded in their minds, sleepless nights will hound them to their grave.

  10. Tingin ko marami pa ring pagkukulang ang pamahalaan. At aaminin ko galit ako. Kaya ako nagpuyat para gawin ang video na to. goo.gl/6Ij8iQ

  11. nod if you agree on

    This information should be shared with the common man on the street, but the only way it can happen is if (broadcast) Main Stream Media gives this issue the air time it deserves.

    Same with the PCOS machines, or we will have a repeat of 2010 and 2013, this time with Mar “the cover boy” Roxas leading us on the straight path to hell.

    Nasaan na ba ang NTC? I was hoping to hear news of their campaign to rid the country of the Idiot in Malacañang, wala pa ba balita?

  12. I appreciate you on hitting Mar Roxas on this Yolanda issue. A self destruct Mar Roxas can no longer make it to the top since last year and will continue to go down on his plan to bring down Binay. The only option left now for Roxas is to cheat in the coming elections. But cheating need some skill too like mind conditioning thru the help of surveys. But a bad product like Mar cannot make it to close second to make cheating convincing unless they resort chaos. I believe Mar and Pnoy might still resort to chaos for fear of being in jail after 2016 elections.

    • Should they resort to chaos, I am pretty sure that the military as the Protector of the People as mandated by the Constitution will step in. They will never tolerate another repeat of the rape of democracy.

  13. Hi Mr. Tiglao,

    with your expose people of leyte are verry thankfull to you,now we know the real story behind those cover bieng publisize by aquino government.

    thank you sir you the man of every leytenos….

  14. I am a Taclobanon. They are ashamed of their wrongdoings and this is the basic reason why they avoid visiting Tacloban. Yolanda caused heavy casualty and damage to Tacloban City and this is a calamity. But what the administration did to Taclobanons after the typhoon was a disaster. Galit sila sa mga Romualdez but they are only around twenty residing in Tacloban City. The population of the City is a little over 200,000. Why would the majority who are not Romualdez suffer? For me this is MADNESS of the highest order on the part of the Aquino administration.

  15. This is a result of a government wherein the commander-in-chief and his peers has no traits of a leader. Give the decision and call of shots to the LGU’s while national govt is there to back up and not as frontliner.

  16. Roxas lasing sa brandy kaya hindi mamaman ang gagawin ng dumating si Yoly! Mr. Tiglao, Ano daw pulutan ng dalawang walanghiya?

    • Alam na pala ni mar roxas at ng kasama nya na mag-eevacuate sila ng tao at expected na rin nila na malakas na typoon ang Yolanada. Sya ang appointed person to ensure the safety of the people. Bakit nakuha pa nilang mag-inuman? Di ba dapat if you are expected to lead the whole evacuation process, dapat wala kang hang-over? may malaki kang responsibilidad dapat ang mind and body mo in good state para maayos ang evacuation? At balak pa nyang tumakbong presidente ng Philippines? at ang comment nya about Romualdez and Aquino makikita nang hindi sya maaasahan. Kanya-kanya pala. And he wants to be the next president? Oh kababayan kong mga Pilipino. Naway yung totoong may malasakit sa Pilipinas at taong bayan ang piliin natin.

  17. si yolanda pa lang d na kaya ni MAR?! tsk tsk tsk…ano pa kya ang problema ng bansa…?!

  18. Thank you Mr. Tiglao. You just served as the best pre-election dish. I never saw Roxas as presidential material. In fact I had no plans to vote for him should he run in 2016. We should really ensure that the hocus-pcos machines, are not used this coming election, or else we will be stuck with another rotten egg.

  19. Booboo in Zamboanga 9/9 War

    Roxas and Gazmin were in Zamboanga days or hours after armed rebels of the MNLF landed in the shoreline barangays of Rio Hondo, Mariki, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina and Ksanyan — less than a kilometer from city hall. They lodged themselves at the Garden Orchid Hotel and took over command of the military operation in the eastern part of Zamboanga City. The general perception of the populace was that these two top officials manipulated and deliberately prolonged the conflict. In fact, reporters covering the conflict claimed that the fighting between the soldiers and the rebels confined in isolated areas in these barangays were over after one week. In fact, like clockwork the guns go silent at nighfall and resume at sunrise. Since the war zone was off limits to civilians—no one can tells if these were only soldiers firing in the air to similate fighting in the zone,, where thwere were actually no more rebels there.. For over three weeks, there was systematic burning of thousands of houses in these barangays while the military blocked the entry of firefighting units to the burning zones. There was looting before the houses were destroyed. The people were ordered out of their homes in these barangays during the first day of the fighting backed by a Forced Evacuation Ordinance approved by the city council without the regular procedure of enacting an ordinance.There are reports that the military already knew of the impending attack in the city. The head of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) happens to be the husband of Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco. This NICA head resigned from his position months after the |booboo” in Zamboanga. Intelligence agents told or lamented to reporters that they have reported months before the Sept 9, 2013 attack about the impending attack. The general conclusion is that Roxas wanted to be remembered as the Savior of Zamboanga. In fact in one press conference, Mayor Climaco said “We…

  20. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    I wonder if the rehabilitation fund is ever approved or signed by Pres. B.S. Aquino this soon if not for the scheduled visit of the Pope in Jaunary; too soon to be able to get the votes of the typhoon victims and would-be beneficiaries for theHe 2016 national elections. .

    Nonetheless, I don’t think the Pope will ever be impressed by what he will see and whatever representations he will hear. After all, he is pro poor, in and out and no oligarch.

    Not only did this sitting president fail the people of Eastern Visayas, but also the DILG secretary. Seems like Roxas is not a problem-solver, but only delegates the solution of problems.

    We don’t need another ‘plastic’ and member of the oligarch to be the next president of the republic.

  21. Thank you, Mr. Tiglao. Ngayon ko lang nalaman ang nangyari dahil dito sa article mo. How so incompetent those two secretaries indeed are.
    But these are already givens in this administration – consumed by vested interests, transactional mindsets, incompetence, so awful and so pathetic.
    Ganito na lang (at sana nagbabasa din ng online news ang mga officers ng PAGASA at Technical Secretariat ng NDRMMC) – PAGASA to implement a Weather Forecast or Bulletin Text Blast System empowering the agency to send text messages to all concerned Provincial Governors, City Mayors and Municipal Mayors on a regular basis.
    I have had several interactions in the past with Messrs Gazmin and Roxas having been with the civil service for years. My impression with Mr. Gazmin is that he is in a self-fulfillment need level. I doubt if he is still engaged in critical strategic thinking at the NDRMMC which he chairs. Mr. Roxas appears to be still hiurting from his loss during the last national election. Typical in a Filipino politician, he is aching for a rebound. As Vice Chair for Disaster Preparedness, Social Protection is not accorded the emphasis it demands. Instead, BUB, now called Grassroots Participatory Budgeting, which in essence is a political capital for 2016 is sufficiently brought into the fore and limelight. Yes, how so awful, and so pathetic indeed.

  22. If Mar is not fit for a cabinet position (DILG secretary), he’s not fit for presidency. Good bye Mar!

  23. Melchor vergara on

    and this group of idiots led by roxas did not bring one satellite phone with them…..they day after they had to ask the air force to rush sat phone units to Tacloban…of course, by that time the Tacloban airport wasn’t operationl

  24. bert, try visiting this article in my blog. i wrote this in 2011 and i cited you in this article. well, we are spot on on this administration. puro papogi to the extent of using paid posters from the office of coloma!

  25. Having an illustrado and an indifferent haciendero and an old, decrepit retired general to manage preparedness to an impending disaster is beyond my understanding. Their serious blunders if true really need senate investigation and sanctions be meted to all who were responsible in order to give justice to the thousands who perished.

  26. You paint a clear picture of the ineptitude of our government people. This is a shame that will not go away.

  27. The problem with Yolanda is unity in politics. Personal motives hampered the proper delivery of services . When can every politician learn that life of fellow Filipino is far more important than the political group they in. In time of major crisis and calamities . We must unite to do a noble purposes . To help and serves our less fortunate brethren no matter which political affiliation they have. And that true service.

  28. It is unbelievable that Roxas, with an ivy school education, came unprepared to meet the biggest typhoon on earth ever recorded. Then he resorted to lies just like what Dinky Soliman is doing now.

    • ivy league school doesn’t necessarily guarantee an ivy league learning. pag bobo, bobo. you can’t squeeze champagne out of a lemon.

    • nod if you agree on

      what’s more unbelievable is that Mar “d great” Roxas is on the cover of Esquire magazine’s November issue.

      I wonder how much of his DAP earnings was spent here.

  29. Mr. Tiglao, I suggest that The Manila Times or other publications create a weekly or bi-weekly post of all readers’ comments on related issues. Articles are changed daily or thrice weekly but their themes or substance tackle the same issues. I think before readers can have a chance to respond, the article has been replaced. Please consolidate all readers’ comments and give more Filipinos opportunities to read and analyze given responses for them to do the needed critical thinking of issues and not easily be swayed by the political color/affiliation of the written themes done over and over but on different dates by different writers using their own persuasive techniques. I hope that a publication on neutral side be created out of a search for truth by patriotic citizens (not primarily concerned on their political affiliation) who can afford to do so out of compassion and generosity of their hearts.

  30. Defintely incompetence of all involved in the Yolanda Thypoon, not to mention corruption and plunders of foreign donations. Grrrrrr!

    • Spare the Philippines is more appropriate… Spare us from these rascals whose individual and collective greed for power and money is made worse by their incompetence….

  31. …that Aquino “grudgingly” approved Tacloban rehab after 11months was that he had no choice as The Pope will visit and see for Himself what this administration had done 14months after Yolanda struck and Aquino wouldn’t want another scenario wherein it would again put on world display the INEPTNESS and STUPIDITY the Filipinos have for a president and his administration!

  32. This news is unimaginable and unbelievable unless we are talking of dumb or brain-less persons, why? Gazmin is a PMA grad while Roxas is a BA grad of Warthon in Philadelphia, yet these 2 did very dumb move of opening their mouth and making decisions without facts or information. As per my comment many moons ago that the incompetence and the ignorance of mischievous PNoy is like a plague which affected his administration, his allies and all folks surrounding him.

  33. Wow! And this Roxas is being hoisted upon us as a presidential timber. We will all perish if we get another abnoy in Malacanang! Why doesn’t he just be content as a padyak captain?

  34. rainier noruego on

    horrific, jaundice yellow-eyed epic failure without any precedent that elsewhere, those concerned would have committed harakiri for honor’s sake. the dead must still be turning in their mass graves to haunt the wicked as we remember them. may god bless the philippines!