• Stop blaming and help

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    Ernesto F. Herrera

    Ernesto F. Herrera

    Alot of people evidently believe that President Noynoy Aquino is to blame for the poor response to Super Typhoon Yolanda.

    The criticism of the government response to Yolanda consisted primarily of condemnations of mismanagement and lack of preparation in the relief effort in its
    aftermath.

    PNoy was criticized heavily because the government was slow to provide relief aid, as many televised interviews of Yolanda’s victims by both local and foreign media showed that they were without food and water.

    Reports said aid was coming in plenty but were not being shipped or distributed fast enough, and that both government and non-government organizations were having trouble coordinating and giving relief. Because people were desperate looting became rampant and even turned deadly at some point.

    Public debate also arose about the local and national governments’ role in the preparations for and response to Yolanda.

    Put issues into perspective
    I am not saying the President is entirely blameless but let us also put these issues into perspective.

    Right now, we shouldn’t even be playing the blame game. If you are not yourself part of the relief efforts, if you have not personally given time or money or both helping victims of Yolanda, then you just better shut up because you’re not helping, you’re being part of the problem.

    Sure, we have to assess where we went wrong, and what could be done better—always
    we need to do these. But this is the time to help.

    But putting things in perspective, Yolanda (or Haiyan, its international name) was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed. There is almost nothing you can do to prepare for winds of about 315 kph.

    Government authorities evacuated about 750,000 people, one of the largest such evacuations in our country’s history. It is not like they tried to down play the intensity of Yolanda. They did prepare and disaster preparation arrangements were far better than the ones in the past.

    The President had directed the national government to extend all needed assistance to local officials. Early on, he issued a televised warning for people to leave high-risk areas, including 100 coastal communities where the storm was expected to produce waves up to 7 meters high. In fact, government officials were already broadcasting warnings starting two days before the typhoon hit.

    Preemptive evacuations
    Local and national authorities evacuated thousands of people from villages in the path of Yolanda. Schools and offices were closed. These preemptive evacuations definitely reduced casualties. Without these preemptive evacuations, thousands more could have died.

    There were responders from the military, police, and the Bureau of Fire Protection in every village, town, city and province expected to be hit by Yolanda.

    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had prepositioned family food packs in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol, Western, Central and Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga region.

    It also requested the National Food Authority (NFA) to provide 100,000 sacks of rice to eight typhoon-hit regions.

    All the Cabinet members were ordered to take a hands-on role in the preparations by the President. President Aquino ordered Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to personally go to Leyte to coordinate the government’s response to Yolanda.

    Rubber boats and other newly purchased amphibious vehicles that can be used for evacuation were prepositioned in strategic areas. Cargo planes, helicopters, even 20 Navy ships were on standby.

    The President said the government aimed for zero casualties.

    But as Murphy’s Law says, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and amid a super typhoon, perhaps much more so.

    Some coastal residents had been reluctant to leave until they saw the sea rise. Even Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and his family decided to ride out the super storm at their beachfront property. Imagine, even the mayor of the worst-hit city didn’t evacuate his family.

    People don’t always listen to the warnings. People are stubborn like that. It’s just human nature. In more than a few cases in the past, the government had often resorted to force so that much more might be evacuated if the worst predictions come to pass. But logistically, it is impossible to forcibly evacuate everybody.

    That’s one of things that happened here. More than a few people were not willing to come to the shelters or seek safer, higher grounds because they were worried that they will lose their belongings. When the water came in, it was too late to flee.

    Of course, many of them lost much more than their belongings. And of course, each of those who died in the flooding from Yolanda’s storm surge will be or has already been blamed on the administration.

    Many blamed the flimsy construction of homes and buildings in Yolanda’s path. If they were built better, they could have withstood the storm. This is true. We need better, more technological infrastructure that could adapt to the worsening storms brought about by climate change.

    But to blame the administration for the lack of brick-and-mortar houses and the greater number of flimsy wood and tin-roof homes in the worst-hit provinces is a bit unfair. Poverty and corruption are to blame, sure, but these didn’t happen overnight. Poverty and corruption predate the Aquino administration.

    The delivery of relief goods was slow initially, but after a disaster, there will always be delays in the delivery of relief. This has happened not only here but even in rich countries like the US.

    Relief usually can arrive only in 24 to 48 hours after the storm clears. Naturally, the media will be at the site much sooner to broadcast the dire situation.

    We also don’t have enough planes and helicopters to go around the roads that were destroyed by Yolanda, and besides, massive deliveries of goods can only arrive by ship, which can take several days. It’s no excuse. It’s reality.

    Distribution was difficult, and it was made more difficult by reports of rampant looting, which scared the aid agencies from going into the communities without adequate military or police escorts.

    Like I said, help if you can. Blaming will only worsen the crisis.

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    12 Comments

    1. I donated and help so i have the right to criticize the govt for their ineptness in handling the relief distribution. Who started the blame game anyway? Was it not the president himself? We were warned about the typhoon. Pnoy has even had a speech detailing the preparation of his govt. Where was it? Obviously, it was only for a show. And it was embarrasing indeed.

    2. One of the more proactive CEO I’ve had the opportunity to work with said this in a brainstorming meeting after a mishap, “if I have to personally come to the plant in the middle of the night every time a mishap, happens, what am I paying managers and supervisors for?” This is the context on which the president said “the LGUS did not prepare enough” this is true. A president is not a micro manager. He assigns people to look into the details of things. When he asks his cabinets, LGUs if everything is in order and they say, “yes mr. President”, it is not his fault that it isn’t. If there is a shortcoming we can pin on him, it is that he did not sack all the member of his cabinet that performed badly. There is no excuse that the AFP is not quickly in Tacloban. There is also no excuse that there are no DPWH heavy equipment readily in place to clear roads so that the relief goods are easily delivered. There is also no excuse why naval ships took days to reach Leyte. Mr. Duterte managed to get there early enough. All these are not the president’s fault. Mr Roxas should also consider looking deeply in himself, soul searching if he will and ask why the local governments became victims themselves. We’re they properly informed, and was there enough funds given to them to accomplish what they need to do. Was there an order to forcibly evacuate people who are in the direct path of Yolanda. Sadly, we as a people are a very stubborn lot. We can come up with so many excuses not to obey orders or regulations. When the locals saw their own mayor go to his beach house in a seeming challenge to the fury of Yolanda, it emboldened the populace and they refused to leave their shacks. This is not the president’s fault. Tactless perhaps for saying what he said, but to blame him for the slow relief, the unpreparedness, the stubbornness/unwillingness of the people to evacuate and the lack of coordination of the government agencies would be wrong. If we are looking for someone to blame, look lower down to the cabinet secretaries, their undersecretaries, the mayors, the barangay officials and finally, us, the people. Two days before the storm hit, announced whatever he did as far as readiness goes because, he was told so. Noong tinanong niya ang mga taong nakatalaga para sa paghahanda, ang sagot nilang lahat ay “opo mahal na pangulo.”like Mr. Ferreira said, it’s time to help.

    3. Paano malalaman ng ating gobyerno na palpak sila kung walang magsasabi, malaking bagay ang nagawa ni Cooper kaya dumagsa ang foreign aid sa ating bansa,nabubulagan ang ating gobyerno na tama sila sa kanilang mga plano at ang LGU ang pumalpak. tama dapat tayong magkaisa at huwag sisihin ang gobyerno, sino ba ang naunang manisi? sana umaksyon na lang agad at hindi na nanisi pa para hindi na nagkanakawan sa gutom ang mga tao, nagkulang sila sa sistema ng implementation, natulog sa pansitan ang mga militar na dapat ay namuno sa mga ganitong disaster dahil pinapelan naman ng isang mas malapit sa puso ng ating presidente, sa madaling sabi namomolitika pa ang iba samantalang halos patay na sa gutom ang mga biktima ng typhoon.

    4. sana mabasa rin ng presidente ito. pagkatapos ng bagyo unang lumabas sa bibig nya ay sisihin ang mga LGUs na naging biktima rin.

    5. President Aquino first started the “blame game” when he arrived on Leyte and proceeded to blame any living government official he could still find for not doing a better job of evacuation in the face of the massive 175 mph typhoon that knocked down anything in it’s path. Within one week of the destruction, the U.S. had 1,000 troops on Leyte helping to bury the dead and clean up, while there were less than 100 Filipino troops on Leyte. President Aquino can easily send 1,000 troops to fight the Abu Sayaff on Mindano, but he can’t order at least 1,000 soldiers to help the people of Leyte? One report documented 2 tractor trailer loads full of foreign relief supplies sitting outside the Tacloban relief center with no one to distribute them. Mr. Aquino your response to this disaster has been pitiful!

    6. Ano gusto mo gawin namin Mr Herrera? Manahimik na lang? Nag-donate na rin kami kaya dapat gawin nila a dpata nilang gawin!!!!!!!

    7. Mr. Ernesto Herrera was a Coryista then and Noynoyista now. And I believe he could have been an ‘unknown quantity’ public figure had he not been appointed to the Agrava Fact Finding Comm by FM. He could have declined that appointment if he had not believed in the FM’s creation of Agrava Commission. To recall it was PNoy who was actually blaming all the local officials of the province of Leyte and Samar. He called them as ‘supposed to be the initial responders’ of the storm Yolanda. PNoy and his NDRRMC personnel even boasted everything was well taken cared of and all are ready in preparations for the incoming of super typhoon 2 or 3 days before the onslaught. That monster typhoon was already spotted to be on its way to the area of responsibility at least 5 days before it unleashed its fury in the Phil. Islands and the national gov’t knew too well of its coming. And to think local government units don’t the supplies and the logistics to tackle that monster storm! And to think that every family of Leyte and Samar has one way or another suffered the brunt of that monster’s brutality! At least 2 local radio broadcasters died, some policemen died. The local officials could not do anything except to attend to the needs of themselves, save their own parents, children, or save their lives! No system of search & rescue, and there was a glaring absence of distribution of relief goods and services for 4 days. Everything is disorganized in the first place! CNN’s Anderson Cooper as a journalist is telling the truth, unlike the wife of Mar Roxas (Korina Sanchez) who acted like a government spokesperson. The victims themselves who escaped to Cebu and Manila because of miserable conditions in Leyte and Samar could attest to this fact.

    8. Oh no. This criminal negligence of this government cannot be left to pass. We should continue helping the victims but lets keep the pressure on this government.

    9. I disagree.
      Criticism of the national and local governments’ actions post-typhoon is helpful. Note that it seemed the relief distribution only seemed to pick up speed after CNN’s Cooper criticized the poor response of the government. And then the administration had Cooper kicked out of the country because they do not like criticism and do not want to face the ugly truth.
      One can both criticize the government and help the survivors. Those 2 activities are not mutually exclusive.

      The Philippines is a democracy, with freedom of speech and a free press, so it’s important to be able to nudge the government to do its job properly, nudging it with criticism of its poor performance.

      Aquino was in Tacloban 2 days after the typhoon and saw the devastation for himself from his helicopter. A reasonable, wise leader would have immediately saturated the areas with military who are used to dealing with disorder. This was not done.
      Anyone who decides to take a very visible position in politics is fair game for criticism. If they cannot take the criticism, then they’re in the wrong occupation.

    10. Rolando Nolasco on

      It is unfortunate that many evacuated too late or refused to evacuate; even Mayor Romualdez and his family decided to stay in their beachfront property. To blame the government for the delayed help is just unfair. The Katrina experience in Louisiana was so massive that people complained about the inability of the government to respond in time. This is America with all the resources available and area affected when levees broke was contained in one area. Visayas regions are comprised of many islands with means of communication cut off for a while, paralyzed transportation facilities and roads blocked and rendered unsafe to travel, how will these not cause delay? Some people just are very good critics but do nothing at all to help.

    11. Sana mabasa ni Mr. Roberto Tiglao ang opinyon mo Mr. Herrera. Palagay ko mayroon siya aral na matutuhan sa inyo. Dahil lahat ng sinulat ni Mr Tiglao tungkol sa pagtulong ng atin gobierno sa mga biktima ng bagyo Yolanda ay hindi raw po tama at kulang. Tulad ng sagot ko sa isa niyan pahayag tungkol sa nagawan tulong ng atin pamahalan nasyonal noon nakaraan araw, ay hindi malalaman at mauunawan ni Mr. Tiglao ang buong kalagayan sa Leyte, Samar, Capiz at iba pang lugar nasalanta ng bagyo Yolanda dahil WALA SIYA DOON.. Napakadali para Kay Mr. Tiglao ang sumulat ng mga negatibo pahayag laban sa tulong ng gobierno, pero hindi naman siya nalalaman at nakikita ang mga kondisyon na nangyayari doon. Sana Mr. Tiglao nag- donate kahit isang kilo ng bigas sa mga biktima. Ako ay nandoon sa Tacloban noon Nobyembre 10,11,12, 2013 namimigay ng mga tulong galing sa aming mga bulsa.

      • My question to you, Messrs. Quibral and Herrera: Who first played the “blame game?” Messrs. Quibral and Herrera, leaders are defined and remembered on how they perform on times of crisis. Great leaders thrive on challenging times. They can inspire, rally and unite their people, dis-united as they may. Mr. Aquino messed up his chance to unite a fragmented nation. The Yolanda tragedy could have been his chance to win the hearts and minds of those who dislike him. It could have been his chance to prove that he is the president of all…even those who belong to the opposite side of the political spectrum. However, it is so sad to say, he missed those chances.