My article last week entitled “Super typhoon exposed super incompetence of Pnoy” (Manila Times, November 23, 2013) elicited the most number of responses since I started writing my column four months ago. Perhaps for obvious reason(s), the Filipino people and foreigners alike were simply dismayed by the glacial pace of response of the national government under the Aquino administration.
It has been three weeks since Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated Eastern and Central Visayas on November 08, but the total number of fatalities has not been completed until today. As of Thursday, November 28, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) placed the figure at 5,560 with 1,757 still missing and more than 26,000 were injured. More than 10 million people are estimated to have been affected by Yolanda and some 3.5 million were left homeless. This is five times the initial estimate of 600,000 people displaced by the aftermath of the devastation.
An issue taken against President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd was when he quibbled over the number of people who died. Interviewed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on the reported 10,000 figure on the fatalities, President Aquino retorted that the government estimate (NDRRMC) was only 2,000 to 2,500 people who perished in the powerful storm. PNoy added that the 10,000 figure given may be due to the emotion attached to the number of those dead.
“Ten thousand, I think, is too much,” President Aquino replied. “They were too close to the incident. They didn’t have basis for it.” Mr. Aquino said the wrong estimate may be due to the emotional trauma of the local official deeply affected by the great tragedy.
Now that the official NDRRMC count of fatalities had reached more than double the 2,000 to 2,500 figure told to CNN’s Amanpour, PNoy now wants an investigation why the casualties have reached so high at more than 5,000. Furthermore, Police Chief Supt. Elmer Soria for Regional Commander of Eastern Visayas, who gave the estimated 10,000 figure, was relieved of his position. The deputy presidential spokesperson made a specious excuse that Police Chief Soria has been tired and exhausted of his work for the past two weeks doing search and rescue work.
The latest development is that the relieved police officer has been reinstated. This is obviously in response to growing criticism in mainstream and social media. Of course, the Office of the President can always say that the police chief of Eastern Visayas has already rested and is now ready to report for work.
The issue of PNoy quibbling over the 10,000 initial estimate did not go unnoticed in print and broadcast media. Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros, widely perceived as pro-administration, wrote a scathing article on the mishandling of President Aquino in the aftermath of the super typhoon that killed thousands due to its tsunami-like storm surge. Mr. de Quiros wrote that PNoy’s quibble “trivialized” the suffering and misery of the victims of Yolanda. Likewise, no less than Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. said the same thing in his Teditorial of ANC’s evening news in the World Tonight.
My fearless forecast is that the final figure on the fatalities will reach 10,000 by the end of the year. This is not because I would like thousands more people to die. Rather, if you add the number of missing persons (close to 2,000) and those who may die due to diseases and starvation, the figure of 10,000 is not far-fetched. However, the national government can be expected to window-dress the number to between 8,000 and 9,000 or even lower at 7,000 to 8,000.
The other major issue against PNoy is his proclivity of blaming others, especially the local government units (LGUs) in Eastern Visayas, particularly in Tacloban and other municipalities in Leyte. It is already bad enough that the regional center of Eastern Visayas was already almost completely devastated. What is worse is for the President of the Philippines to blame the local executives.
What is even worst is what PNoy declared in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, that those who will receive the relief goods first are those whose local governments are organized.
This is like punishing the survivors of the super typhoon just because their local leaders are not organized as what the national government want them to be. How naive and cruel can PNoy get!
As several newspaper editorials and columns have pointed, President Aquino could have exercised humility in admitting the shortcomings or failure of his administration. Teddy Boy Locsin, a member of the Cabinet of then-President Corazon C. Aquino, has said the same based on their experiences with the calamities of the early 1990s during the administration of PNoy’s own mother.
Wouldn’t it be great if we have a President who would apologize to the Filipino people for the pain and misery that the slow response of his government has brought to the people in Leyte, Eastern Samar, Northern Cebu, and Northern Panay Island devastated by the super typhoon?
PNoy can learn a lesson in humility and accountability from the besieged Mayor of Toronto in Canada who was being pressured to resign for his taking drugs, alcohol and unruly behavior. While being grilled by members of the Toronto City Council, he admitted that he “fucked up.”
The Toronto mayor also admitted that his use of illegal drugs and alcohol were not due to stress of his work, but due to “sheer stupidity.” He said that he will take “full responsibility” for the consequences of his actions.
President Barack Obama recently apologized to the American people for the shortcomings and/or failure of his administration’s signature Health Care program. If the most powerful person in the world has the humility to say sorry, why can’t the pathetic President of the Philippines?
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org