Doing the right thing in East Visayas


“Curse me, criticize me, but I believe I must do the right thing.”
Benigno Aquino 3rd, Guiuan, Eastern Samar November 7, 2014

As luck or fate would have it, when President Benigno Aquino 3rd uttered those challenging words in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, while avoiding the Yolanda/Haiyan first anniversary observance in Tacloban, I was deep in study of a new book I had recently acquired, entitled Justice, What’s the Right Thing to Do? (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009)

Its author is Michael J. Sandel, a professor of government and political philosophy at Harvard University. He is celebrated for teaching a course in Harvard that relates the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues in contemporary times. He helps students and readers, in the words of George Will, “to experience the pleasures of thinking clearly about large questions of social policy.”

After reading this book cover to cover, and with my experience and learning in leadership education and practice, I can confidently critique the soundness of Aquino’s policies and actions in the Yolanda/Haiyan disaster, particularly his more recent pronouncements.

The book is a fine complement to the other book that I’ve been studying in connection with the Haiyan anniversary, The Politics of Disaster, by Marvin Olasky, which I cited at length in my previous column.

Doing the right thing: 3 views
The issue that aquino has raised is important. To his credit, he seems mindful of the dictum in business management that says, “a manager does things right; a leader does the right thing.”

Doing the right thing calls for a careful study of hard choices and moral reflection. We need to strive for moral clarity on the choice or choices we opt for.

Neither Aquino nor East Visayans can decide on the right thing to do on just the basis of personal convenience or advantage. There is a responsibility to discharge.

In Sandel’s incisive study of justice or what’s the right thing to do, he discusses three major approaches to determining what is the right thing to do towards achieving a just society. He relates each approach to a major school of philosoiphy.    1.The first says “doing the right thing” means maximizing utility or welfare – or achieving the happiness for the greatest number. This is the approach espoused by the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

2.The second approach says right action means respecting freedom of choice – either the actual choices people make in a free market (the libertarian view) or the hypothetical choices people would make in an original position of equality (the liberal egalitarian view). Egalitarians seek to redress inequality through right action.

3.The third approach says justice means cultivating civic virtue and promoting the common good. It exalts a strong sense of community as a key part of the good society. It also values patriotism and national pride. The principal philosopher cited is John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice.

Advocates of the common good contend that the hollowing out of the public realm in modern life has made it difficult to cultivate the solidarity and sense of community on which democratic citizenship depends.

The Politics of the common good sets as one of its primary goals the reconstruction of the infrastructure of civic life.

Decisions on Haiyan Disaster
Given this overview of the three approaches to right action, we can now evaluate some of the decisions made by President Aquino with respect to the Yolanda/Haiyan diaster.

Decision 1: Rejecting the petition of Haiyan survivors for financial assistance of some P40,000 per family. –In issuing his challenge to critics, Aquino explicitly declared that he could not grant the request because he has to do the right thing. For him, it would be a mistake.

Professor Olasky in the politics of Disaster says that assisting disaster victims in their efforts at recovery is a critical need, because meetring material needs could be the difference between life and death.

In the light of the P160-billion appropriated for reconstruction and rehabilitation, providing financial assistance per family would be relatively small. It is reasonable and affordable.

In the case of the Katrina disaster in the US, the F ederal government throught the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided the sum of $2,358 per household as assistance. President George W. Bush actually wanted to give more.

In the Haiyan disaster, I can’t help thinking trhat the problem was really President Aquino’s total lack of empathy with all the stricken and distressed. His instinctive lack of caring closed his mind to anything more humane.

Decision2: Decision not to remove the marooned ships in Tacloban. As I reported in my previous column, no less than seven ships or boats are still to be found in downtown Tacloban, stuck like a fishbone in the city’s throat. After one year, not a single ship has been removed.

Underneath, according to Taclobasnons, there are many victims who were caught or trapped in their homes by the typhoon and storm surge.

The excuse for inaction is again money. It will cost several millions to remove the ships.

There’s been talk lately that the ships will be turned into museums that could possibly attract tourists in the future.

This is bizarre. And this srtrikes at the heart of the inequality post Haiyan and the misplaced priorities of the Aquino administration.

I pose to President Aquino this hypothetical question.

If the victims under the ships’s hulls were surnamed “Aquino”, would you hesitate to order the removal of the ships from Tacloban?

If it were a romualdez, he probably would drag his feet, following the logic of Mar Roxas.

But this is precisely my point. No action is being taken because the victims are poor and working class; they are ordinary people.

If the decision to turn the ships into museums pushes through, they will become monuments to Aquino’s ineptitude and cold, cold heart.

Transfer of Tacloban Airport
Decision 3: Decision to transfer the Tacloban Airport from Tacloban to Palo. Lying all the way, Aquino has claimed that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has recommended the transfer and prepared a study for the new airport. A lie.

He did not mention the fact that the Tacloban Airport has long had a plan for its renovation and expansion.

He conveniently omits to mention that he as president impounded a P900-million budget for the airport’s modernization in 2011, in order to beef up the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The fund was diverted elsewhere.

More important, the Tacloban Airport is the common airport of all the provinces and cities of East Visayas.

It is a very busy airport with as many as 18 flights daily during more normal times. Historically, it has a fine record of safe navigation. There is no accident on record that should lead one to question the suitability of its location.

There are existing roads to every province that connects them to the airport. The number of people who will be affected by this foolish project will easily run into five or six million.

The question troubling the people of East Visayas today is whether they will have an airport when Pope Francis visits Tacloban and the region in January 2014.

Will president change the plans by parachuting the pope to Tacloban?

Relevant to this issue also is the overweening influence of the Petilla dynasty in this case. The family seeks to transfer the airport to Palo, Leyte, where Mrs. Remedios Petilla is the mayor.

New cuss word in Waray
Decision 4: Decision to forego an official commemoration of the first anniversary of the Haiyan Disaster on November 8.

With foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario as herald, our government announced to the world that it would not officially commemorate the disaster on November 8. It would instead take the opportunity on that date to thank the United Nations and the world for their generous assistance in enabling our country and our people to recover and rebuild from the ruins.

This is beyond laziness and Noynoying; this is bullshit. Only a presidency that does not understand its responsibility as the representative of a proud people would dare attempt this.

In this final gesture of disrespect towards the people of East Visayas – both the dead and the living – Aquino has demonstrated that he is unworthy of being our leader.

“Curse me, criticize me” he says? I say to my kababayans in Leyte and East Visayas, let’s turn “Aquino” into a cuss word in our Waray language.


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  1. Pnoy is a heartless and highest form of cannibal who should rather live in seclusion alone in Siera Madre Mountains! Pnoy s only claim to his position is the name recognition for the alleged heroism of his father for resisting Marcos rule though he was not alone sinceTanada, Pepe Diokno, Soc Rodrigo, Evilio Javier who gave his life in pursuit of freedom from Marcos political clutches, were all there in times of his political crises putting their lives on the line. Pnoy as Congressman and Senator did not show any potential for leadership. His political career was devoid of any palpable achievement or warmth embrace of the poor people. Pnoy was just an accidental and unfortunate fruit of Aquino’s legacy and name catapulting him to top post to the unfortunate luck of the people. Pnoy brain circuitry must be default to insensitivity and callousness towards the plight of poor people, e specially for inhabitants of his political nemesis.. Pnoy is only a President to a certain segment of the elite society who can assail his policy tha adversely affects them. Not the poor who does not have any voice in Aquino’s administration he only say ” buhay pa naman kayo, kaya bahala kayo sa buhay Ninyo”. That is his arrogant and brainlessly retort to his critics!

  2. if ur on the otherside of the coin sori ka na lang pero kung ikaw ay kapanalig ok mas marami kang mahuhuthot. iyan ang bog problem natin may bengatibo tayon peisidente at mga alipores na tuta so next election mamili tau nung talagang gagawin ay maglingkod ng tapat walisin na nain ang mga senatong at tongresman sa kasalukuyan ay mga tuta so mga folks gumisnh na tau ok

  3. BSA 3rd is the problem. A vindictive president cannot lead when his heart is full of anger and hate, and has no regard to law and justice.

  4. Mr. Makabenta has committed a big mistake. He considers as facts issues and assumptions that are debatable. From my readings of articles in the Internet, Sec. Panfilo Lacson has already pointed out that Tacloban City as received fifty two billion pesos on various forms of assistance to the people of Tacloban. It looks like he is just parroting the allegations of Tacloban officials who are making questionable statements in the media.

  5. You are kidding, aren’t you Enigma. I do not think that I need to defend Yen, but I do have a few opinions. If you want to see true spin, just look at any media in the USA. They would follow Obama off of a cliff. I believe that Yen does not just repeat what others have said, but rather does his own research. You can tell that he is an avid reader by the way he expresses himself, very rare for one his age. There are not many real reporters is the world today. Most reporters will only follow the line that their editor tells them to. Yen has both smarts and balls, a rare breed. A professor at Princeton University has seen Yen’s work and was quite impressed. Politics is a dirty business in any country. On the Corruption Perception Index, the Philippines rates 124 out of 159, not a good place The US is 17, yes room for improvement. What would you call handing out millions and millions of pesos with little or no accountability? Perhaps unintended corruption? Perhaps you would be happiest reading the MB as they will support any administration that is in power. This has a ring to it……. NO SPIN YEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. P. on

    Maramai ang naghihirap sa Pilipinas hanggang ngayon dahil karamihan sa mga opisyal ng gobyerno mula Brgy. Kapitan, hanggang sa Kongreso ay korap! Mga “aquinong” poltiko!

  7. Enigma, or whatever your name is, don’t forget that life is a stage where we each has a part to play. Yen does his part – very well, I dare say. You are also acting your piece, and I suppose you are trying your best to impress the audience (the Filipino People). Let us keep to our role, Enigma, and let the Grand Filipino Audience decide who gave the best interpretation in the play. Kool ka lang, pare. Yung nais mong ipagtanggol (Noynoying) ay talagang walang paki, sapagkat hindi niya tayo pami!!!. Palakpak naman dyan.

  8. If words can kill, PNoy would have died a thousand times from the curses of the Haiyan victims.

  9. The Philippines needs an ‘Aquinostomy’ urgently or the republic will collapse if it is not done pronto.

  10. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What is right to P-Noy is what to him is right not what is right to and for the people. God bless the Philippines.

  11. the petilla dynasty has been ruling for more than 20 years without a legacy to speak of. with haiyan/yolanda, they were able to find a suitable excuse to put up something given the massive funds available. the gameplan was to isolate tacloban city and if possible to make it a ghost town since it is a romualdez “country”. so the first step to transfer is to transfer the airport to palo, with the hope that all commerce will leave tacloban city. with a 12 billion budget, the commission alone will be able to bankroll their election campaign in 2016. they can now have a legacy by naming the palo airport in honor of the grandfather of icot. so it will be known as “carlos petilla airport”. so the daniel z. romualdez airport will be erased. it is a very clean gameplan, hitting two birds with one stone. right now the petillas are planning to transfer the capital from tacloban to palo by building a new government center at campitik palo. the proposed budget is around 6 billion. again the commission alone will be more enough to bankroll their 2016 election campaign. the slow rehab of tacloban is due to politics. there is no other reasons.

  12. Splendid work, Yen. What more can I add? Well, I have no intention to be unchristian or be labelled as heresiarch, but how I wish the LAST JUDGMENT would be held in Tacloban City. When that happen, in which side would PNoy be herded: the sheep or the goats’ side? The goats have horns, remember, Yen?

  13. I have been reading your articles and negative reporting against the administration is your forte. Do you really believed by sticking you neck in defending the corrupt VP and the Romualdezes will improve the well being of Filipinos? I really believed that you are a bona fide journalist but now you become the master spinners of corrupt officials. Birds of the same feathers stick together!

    • Ano gusto mo ipagsigawan ng lahat na mabuting lahat ang ginagawa ni Aquino?
      Kung maypersonal na galit si Aquino sa mga romualdes at sa mga thieves na kasama niya,kailangan ba idamay ang tao taga -tacloban?
      Di ba pangulo siya ng buong pinas?
      Ang ikinasasama ng loob mong kung ipagtanggol ni yen ang mga hindi naabutan ng tulong?
      Kadugo mo ba siya at parang ramdam na ramdam mo ang puna?
      Ano meron tayong maiitulong sa mga nasalanta?