TROPICAL depression Urduja (international name Kai-Tak) departed the Philippine area of responsibility on Tuesday, leaving more than 40 people dead and a number of others missing.
Majority of the fatalities were from Biliran. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), most of these deaths were due to landslides.
Biliran is an island province located in Region 8, the Eastern Visayas. Its capital is the municipality of Naval and it has a total land area of approximately 230 square kilometers. Its population stands at around 180,000.
The island is rich in high-grade minerals such as sulphur, white and brown clay, and phosphorous. It was even reported that natural gas and gold can be mined from its vicinity.
With the presence of mining firms and the unabated mining activities, it is no wonder that NDRRMC attributed these landslides to mining. The open pit mines serve as huge water catch basins, saturating the soil underneath it, and triggering massive landslides from the onslaught of typhoons.
The deaths caused by these landslides should then be blamed on mining.
Chong’s different viewpoint
But if you were to ask former Biliran representative Glenn A. Chong, he would give you a differing opinion. “Smartmatic, not Urduja, killed the people of Biliran,” he said.
I asked him, “Why is that so?”
According to Chong, the syndicate in the Commission of Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic made Gerardo Espina Jr. win the 2010 congressional elections in Biliran. This returned the Espinas to the control of Biliran island. Espina Jr. is the incumbent governor of the province. Rogelio J. Espina is the current representative of the lone district of Biliran. The incumbent mayor of the provincial capital of Naval is Gerard Roger Espina.
It was Chong who ended the reign of the Espinas as representatives of Biliran. Gerardo Espina Sr. held that post from 1995 to 2004. It was Espina Jr. from 2004 to 2007. Chong defeated Espina Jr. in the 2007 polls. In 2010, Chong claimed that he was cheated through the courtesy of Smartmatic, the election technology provider of Comelec.
During his term as congressman, Chong stopped the sulphur mining in the island by blocking their mining applications with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DENR).This was made possible with the help and cooperation of civil society and the religious sector. Chong lobbied for the restoration of the mountains to their original condition.
The mining operations resumed in 2010 when Chong was already out of the political scene. Purportedly, the Espinas gave their blessings to these miners. The mountains were further desecrated and decimated.
Chong laments that had there been fair and impartial elections in 2010, he would have won and mining would have totally stopped. If mining had been stopped in 2010, then there would have been no landslides today and no deaths to mourn.
However, he said that Smartmatic, in conspiracy with the COMELEC syndicate, made it possible for the Espinas to win. Consequently, they allowed the resumption of mining operations. The rest, so to speak, is history.
The cause of the cause is the cause
In legal parlance, there is a Spanish maxim that says, “El que es causa de la causa es causa del mal causado.” This translates to “He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil caused.” This is the legal principle of proximate cause. In layman’s terms, it means that the person who caused something bad to happen is the person who should be charged in court.
And this is where Chong is coming from.
Let us analyze. Initially, there were mining operations. Chong, as Biliran representative, stopped the mining operations. In 2010, Smartmaticseemingly cheated Chong and caused the Espinas to win. Thus, mining continued allegedly with the knowledge of the Espinas. Mining caused the landslides during typhoon Urduja. The landslides caused the deaths of people.
Following this timeline, it seems that Smartmatic is the cause of the cause that caused the landslides that killed scores of Biliran residents.
Meanwhile, the Espinas said that there is no truth to Chong’s allegations. They said that this is not the time to complain but a time to help rebuild the province. Similarly, they asked Chong to help the people of his district instead of attacking the Espinas.
Urduja removed from list
The damage caused byUrduja was estimated to be more than P1 billion as of Thursday. As a nationalpolicy, typhoon names causing more a billion or more in terms of assessed damage, or have caused at least 300 deaths within the country, will be retired and no longer be used.
Typhoons have been given names during the last 100 years. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said it is easier for people to remember the typhoons by names rather than by their technical assignations. Naming typhoons likewise generate interest in major storms and increases the preparedness of people. It is according to WMO procedures that when a typhoon is deemed to be particularly deadly or costly, its name is to be removed from the list.
Thus, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) will be removing “Urduja” from the list of possible typhoon names. The name Urduja was used in 2009, 2013, and now in 2017.
Following former Biliran congressman Chong’s point of view, should not Smartmatic’s name be removed also from the list of Comelec election technology providers?