President Aquino went on live television on Monday night to declare a national state of calamity to “fast track funding and restore peace and order in affected areas” brought about by super Typhoon Yolanda.
The President’s announcement, however, raised the eyebrows of local officials and residents of Leyte because it came days after they prodded him to do just that over the weekend.
The declaration of a state of calamity ensures the immediate release of funds from the national government to various units for the relief and rebuilding of affected areas and to immediately restore law and order.
Local officials claim that Aquino’s announcement came too late as business establishments, especially stores, were not only almost reduced to rubbles but were also looted as residents who have not eaten or drank clean water for 48 hours or so ransacked stores for food, dry clothing, and personal hygiene items.
The situation in Leyte clearly shows the ineptness of this administration, particularly the President, in helping victims of calamity as this is not the first time that this happened. Remember the incident in Bulacan during Habagat of 2013? The President with his relief goods arrived a day late.
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Authorities never learned
Friday morning saw the deadliest typhoon that ever hit the country this year, reducing several provinces almost to wastelands and claiming over a thousand lives (so far.) Thousands more went missing.
Though super Typhoon Yolanda left the country Saturday morning, the problem has just begun as tens of thousands of victims cry for food and water, and business establishments, particularly grocery and department stores, became the target of looters.
Observers believe these problems could have been avoided if only the government, especially those assigned to keep the peace and order, carefully reviewed its lapses or failures in the past. One good example and very similar to the situation now in Leyte and Samar was the devastation in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley brought about by Typhoon Pablo in December last year.
Hundreds died and thousands were missing as hungry survivors ransacked stores to get food, water, and daily essentials for themselves and their respective families. The problem after the onslaught of Pablo last year was that local governments in devastated areas did not exist anymore as officials and the law enforcers themselves became victims too.
Surprisingly, the scenes we are seeing now in Leyte is a déjà vu of sorts, yet it seems that the government did not learn anything from that catastrophe in that southern part of Mindanao.
It did not anticipate the breakdown in security, thereby resulting in massive looting in Tacloban City. The officers, who were expected to maintain order, were not present as they attended to the needs of their families or have to look for their missing loved ones or bury their dead.
What authorities should have done was deploy policemen or military personnel assigned in non-affected areas, such as from nearby provinces or even from Metro Manila, to secure Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas admitted that the Tacloban PNP, numbering over 200, can only account 20 of its personnel since the rest of their strength did not report for work immediately after Yolanda wreaked havoc in the province.
The police and the military leadership should learn from this grievous mistake.