It has been said before and it is a thought worth repeating. Today, the Philippines is in crisis, the gravest crisis it has ever faced since World War II.
Central Visayas is in shambles, and hundreds of thousands of victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda are crying for help. They need that help now.
Yolanda struck Friday of last week. That was six days ago. It is fair to say that some help has been extended to some victims, but so many others have been left to fend for themselves. These next few hours will be critical for a great number who have little or no food or water. Or shelter. Or clean, dry clothes.
We do not know what the real death toll is, but the number could grow exponentially if the survivors who are currently ill or starving are not attended to. Now.
In these dark hours, the country needs a leader. A true leader who can take charge and dictate to the government bureaucracy and the private sector and the individual victims of Yolanda what must be done immediately.
For better or for worse, that leader must be Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino 3rd, president of the republic. There is no one else. He may not shirk the responsibility, nor pass it on to any of his underlings.
Aquino, and only Aquino, must lead the country out of this crisis. Unless, of course, he is ready to raise the flag of surrender, admit he cannot handle the crisis, and resign as president. If he feels that the present vice president is better equipped to take the reins of government at this critical juncture, then so be it.
So much needs to be done and it has taken foreign eyes and mouths to tell the national government that not enough is being accomplished for the survivors.
Countless dead remain unburied and their decaying bodies have the potential for spreading disease. At the very least, the stench their cadavers emit makes rescue and recovery work unbearable.
Then there are the seriously injured or ill. If they do not receive medical assistance soonest, they will wither and die, and become part of the statistics that is already too painful to bear.
There are also the hundreds of thousands who have nothing, literally nothing. No homes (as these were blown away), no food (as what food they had was lost during the storm), and nothing but the clothes on their back (as all their clothes were likewise hopelessly damaged by Yolanda).
A great many of these victims will be forced to commit the most heinous acts imaginable in order to feed themselves and their families, in order to survive another day. They will rob, they will pillage, they will kill. Unless an acknowledged leader tells them to stop, and assures them that the situation is not as hopeless as it seems and that help is on the way.
Then that leader must deliver on his promises.
Before Yolanda came, the Aquino presidency was being defined by the steady, impressive growth of the economy, and the president’s strong anti-corruption stance.
It has become increasingly clear that the Aquino presidency will be defined for posterity by how it acted in the hours and days that followed Super Typhoon Yolanda. It is the 11the hour and President Aquino has been found wanting, so far. There is, however, still time to lead the entire country out of this dark crisis. Not much, to be sure, but there is still a little time.
The eyes of the Filipino people, indeed the eyes of the world, are focused on Noynoy Aquino.
Lead, Mr. Aquino. Lead.