Revealed (again): Roxas’ big boo-boo in Tacloban

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The tsunami of outrage against presidential candidate Manuel Roxas 2nd’s comics depicting him as a fearless hero in Tacloban, when Supertyphoon Yolanda hit the city in November 2014, is quite understandable.

It’s classic propaganda without scruples: Spread a lie packaged in an entertaining manner (comics) among the masses before it can be debunked in the same costly medium (colored comics, even) or if those wishing to dispute it don’t have the resources (to hire an expansive cartoonist and publish the comics in full color) to do so.  After all, it’s just a month’s time before the May 9, 2016 elections. After that, to hell if the comics story is true or not.

Rather than a hero, Roxas, because of his incompetence, may have aggravated the Supertyphoon’s impact on Tacloban.

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Yolanda, instead, hit at 5 a.m., when many officials, including Roxas and Gazmin, were still asleep. (From videoclip of the meeting, including the subtitles.)

Roxas committed a gargantuan mistake the day before Yolanda struck, that was the reason why thousands were unprepared and perished. In a meeting between his staff and city officials purportedly to finalize preparations for evacuation and rescue, he announced that Yolanda would hit at noon the next day so they still had until “10 o’clock tomorrow morning to evacuate these people.” He even called for another, final meeting at 8 a.m.


Yolanda, instead, hit at 5 a.m. the following morning. Many city officials believed him, and consequently relayed the misleading misinformation down the line to the people of Tacloban.

This is not according to “sources,” but taken from a video clip of that meeting that was given to me in 2014. Surprisingly, the video clip has been posted on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL5YLH_R7hA, although almost ignored. (Or search youtube: “Our Yolanda Story”)

This is the reason why Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who were both in Tacloban at that time, were sleeping soundly when Yolanda struck at dawn, thinking it would come at noon. The two nearly drowned, with the traumatized Gazmin leaving immediately for Manila and Roxas – as reported by different people, including a priest – walking along Tacloban’s streets in a daze, barking strange, fantastic orders no one could follow.

I wrote this in my column which came out on the first anniversary of the tragedy, entitled “Exposed: The govt’s biggest boo-boo on the Yolanda fiasco.”

Neither Roxas nor Gazmin had written to me or this newspaper to correct anything in the column, which they would have done so if it were false, given the very serious allegations made there, and its narrative of what really happened. There were 55 comments on the column, and none disputed it.

The column is reproduced in its entirety as follows:

A year after the Yolanda disaster, the biggest boo-boo of President Aquino’s top officials tasked to deal with the SuperTyphoon 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 SuperTyphoon 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 p.m. 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?

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 a.m.” 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 p.m. 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 a.m. the next day.

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

It was a horrific mistake that would cost thousands of lives. Roxas expected the typhoon to hit at noon; it hit at 5 a.m. 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 a.m., 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

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29 Comments

  1. mas believe ako sa gawad kalinga foundation mas maganda at matibay ung mga pabahay nila sa mga yolanda victims..d katulad ng pabahay sa gobyerno ntin bilyon bilyong donation bakit prang kulungan ng baboy o bunk house ung pabahay nila sa mga nbiktima…gawad kalinga i salute you..

  2. Domenico Gorre on

    Papansin lang si Roxas noong Yolanda marami siyang close up sa camera pero wala siyang closeness sa mga biktima ng Yolanda

  3. After i read this article it made me think that even yolanda tragedy should have had investigated. roxas and co. should be charged of serious neglect and incompetence.

  4. Sir Tiglao for correction and this is just only typographical error, Yolanda hit Tacloban November 2013.Thanks.

  5. Gilbert elento on

    Dapat makulong din yan ipaliwanag niya saan napunta pera ng yolanda fund at si pnoy wag ng magpakita sa taong bayan sayang lang ang vote ko sa kanya

  6. Just my observation, no one from the other candidates have visited Tacloban except for Mar. I think there is concerted effort to tarnished his image. I and million of Filipinos including foreigners can not be swayed by this black propaganda. In order for our country to move forward we need leader who will continue daang Matuwid Program. I will vote for Mar. Full stop.

    • If Mar actually did those things and did his job properly then why were there so many victims. He at that time was at a position to prevent this disaster. If he really saved so many people then let the people of tacloban themselves decide who the hero actually is because i think there was no hero this was a FAILURE.A horrible failure of the Aquino government(daang matuwid) that costed the lives of thousands of filipinos. One they are trying to cover-up, lighten, and change into some heroic act, just so people would vote for him.

    • Concerted effort to tarnish* his image ka pa, naglabas nga ng comics na hindi totoo yang amo mo. The purpose of the article was to point out that Mar made matters worse in Tacloban from that time. If he did not make those mistakes back then, maayos image niya ngayon. Palitan mo point of view mo, dapat ang sinasabi mo, “Yellow ranger’s concerted effort to clean his tarnished image”.

    • juan liwanag on

      whee Marcos,duterte, binay, local nearby leaders was there but yellow media never published them. Go to your daan huwad thats your choice. anything against lies of LP and mar is black propaganda???

  7. Super-hero Mar became Super Siakoy…you can’t be a president because you can’t even be a manager…you can’t be a problem solver because you don’t have an analytical mind…you might have a Wharton certificate but it’s just a piece of paper. You poor man.

  8. Rora Suppitsu on

    And because Roxas nearly perished due to his own negligence and irresponsibility, his minions (daw) thought to use that to turn him into a comic-book hero…

  9. haay!!!

    i hope the Filipinos who are still capture dby teh yellow propaganda will wake up! Go go go Mr. Tiglao

  10. Ah, kaya pala sa debate, sinabi nya Andun sya at “He risked his life” hehehe. Eh muntik na pala sila ni Gazmin na malunod habang tulog eh.. Kaya dapat baguhin ang pamagat ng KOMIKS nya na “Sa gitna ng Unos”. Dapat “Sa GITNA ng UNOS.. ay MAHIMBING ang TULOG ni MAR ROXAS”

  11. it was a blessing in disguise for them. as they now have all the money in the world, all in their pockets. sad but true. our government is the one killing its constituents.

    • I heard the authorities had just shot hungry farmers in Kidapawan. So, yes, you are absolutely right.

  12. Ganun talaga pag mama’s boy, wala sarili isip at pagdedesisyon. Paano na kaya kun sya ang gigisingin ng 4am para sabihin na ang submarino ng insect ay nasa Manila Bay na at papunta na sa ilog sa likod ng Makalanyan?

    The leadership of men are always tested in a time of crisis. Other than that split second opportunity for greatness, everything is just plain machismo and ego tripping. Kun baga pag nakakita ka ng nalulunod, mag compute ka ba muna ng velocity ng wind, strength ng lakas ng agos ng tubig, halaga ng suot mong relo na mababasa pag tumalon ka sa tubig para isalba ang nalulunod o gagamit ka muna ng cellphone para tumawag sa nanay mo?

  13. Ay Diyos, Ko. Hindi alam ni Roxas kung ano ang ginawa niya sa Tacloban. Ito ba ang gusto natin maging Presidente ng Pilipinas. Mag-isip isip tayo mga kababayan. Let’s not waste another six (6) years for this kind of person (Roxas). Kung ano siya noong mga nakaraang taon, ganoon din ang gagawin niya pag siya ang maging Presidente. We are safe with Duterte.

  14. lahat ng hawakan ni roxas ay nabolilyaso. dapat harapin nya ang katotohanang palpak sya in everyway.

  15. Sus Gino-o, maoy diay ang nahitabo. Wala-wala gyud diay si Roxas no. Ma-o nay giingon nga ” unlimited supply of idiots in the government “. and yet he has the gull to run for president. Ang kakambal ni Roxas ay bolilyaso . Boto pa Kamo?

  16. U are absolutely correct der should be a pag-asa representative during the conference after all decision and preparation should be anchored on his opinion and forecasting as there is mo accuracy if n wen the storm will arrive and by the nr of casualties and destruction that d storm caused no one has accepted responsibility but if u will analyze those in the government should hav d courage to take d failure and if the many counts of dead bodies were not the proof den what it is?

    • Absolutely right! But even without a representative from PAGASA, Mar could have found a thousand and one ways to determine an accurate weather forecast. He simply bungled everything, pure and simple.

  17. The businessman berated/insulted by pinoy that you are referring to has died reportedly due to depression. I learned about it from one of his relatives during my last visit to tacloban. Kaya tacloban will never go for mar!

  18. Truth Seeker on

    When Pres Noy leave Malacanang, magiging solo na siya at alalabas na ang pagka-single ni Noynoy; pakakasalan daw niya si: YOLANDA MAMASAPANO. he he he!

  19. Johnny Ramos on

    It is the masses that could only declare that Mar Roxas was a hero in the Yolanda tragedy. No comics can do it for him or even him can not proclaim him a hero. Mar Roxas was severely damaged by Yolanda.