In her interview with President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd last Wednesday, CNN’s news anchor Christiane Amanpour asked him a loaded question if his administration’s response to the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda will define his presidency. President Aquino did not answer the question directly, as can be expected, and instead veered to the other disaster-stricken areas with “ minimal” casualties.
However, there was something shocking that President B.S. Aquino 3rd told CNN’s Chief International Correspondent that seemed to be out of touch with reality based on CNN’s own coverage of the disaster in Tacloban and other parts of Leyte and Eastern Samar. It can be the case of a Chief Executive who is honestly clueless about what is going on with his administration or perhaps suffering from absolute mental dishonesty.
PNoy told Ms. Amanpour, a veteran journalist of world-celebrity status, that the “immediate response of the national government (to the aftermath) reassured the vast majority of our people.” There is Nothing Farther than the Truth.
There was hardly any government response to speak of. On the sixth day of the super-typhoon Yolanda, the Aquino administration finally admitted their slow response and “lapses” after a storm of criticism from international and local media, as well as from the United Nations.
After the devastation of Friday last week, what PNoy simply did was he presided over a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) on Saturday, a day after the super-typhoon hit northern Leyte and Eastern Samar. Then on Sunday, he briefly visited Tacloban where he walked out of a meeting after hearing the 95 percent devastation report of the NDRRMC Executive Director, but minus any details.
After the sojourn in Tacloban, P-Noy together with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas proceeded to Roxas City, the capital of Capiz province located in northeast Panay Island. It is amazing that the President did not visit the other adjacent towns like Palo, and Ormoc City in northwest Leyte (facing Cebu) that was on the way from Tacloban to Roxas City.
Neither did P-Noy visit Guiuan, Eastern Samar that was worse devastated than Tacloban.
CNN has already visited Guiuan twice in a span of two-three days.
The first visit was with celebrity correspondent and news anchor Anderson Cooper who flew in with Philippine Navy Captain Roy Vincent Trinidad who said, “Guiuan is worse than Tacloban … (people with) sense of despair and hopelessness and wandering aimlessly.” CNN’s Ivan Watson visited Guiuan last Friday and saw the worse devastation for himself.
It has been seven days since the super typhoon struck and the people of Tacloban still have No Food, No Potable Water, No Medicine, No Shelter and No Electricity. No less than Tacloban City Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez had issued an appeal last Wednesday for the residents to leave the city. The indefatigable local chief executive urged them to flee to other cities since there is barely any food, water, medicine and shelter left for them.
The front page headlines of the leading newspapers last Wednesday showed the sheer desperation of the situation in Tacloban,Leyte. The headlines and their stories are a harsh indictment of the dismal failure of the Aquino administration on its rescue and relief operations not just in Tacloban, but other devastated areas such as Palo, Ormoc and Guiuan. Thousands waiting desperately at the regional airport of Eastern Visayas hoping that they can get a ride away from a place one resident referred to as “Worse Than Hell.”
On 13 November 2013, the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer screamed: “Mad Rush out of Tacloban; Thousands foiled in bid to leave devastated city.” The Philippine Star screamed: “We have to Flee!” The Manila Standard screamed: “Escape from Hell.” The Daily Tribune screamed: “Survivors Seek Escape from No Man’s Land.”
It was only on the same day, Wednesday, 13 November 2013, the Fifth Day of Super-Typhoon Yolanda that the Office of the President finally took a direct hand with the command conference of Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras presiding over a NDRRMC meeting.
It was only that same day that Mr. Almendras finally admitted the “glitches in coordination” of the National Government and still “waiting for the Plan of the DSWD.”
I believe that Super typhoon Yolanda has defined the Presidency of P-Noy. The severe criticisms from the victims who survived the catastrophe and the media coverage from local and international news organizations easily confirm the obvious failure in the search, rescue and relief efforts of the national government. Even the volunteers of medical missions, non-government and foreign aid organizations like the Red Cross, USAID, the World Food programme (WFP) and police and military forces have witnessed the chaos.
The assessment made by the CNN reporters Paula Hancock and Andrew Stevens on the inhuman conditions in Tacloban when they were interviewed by Anderson Cooper has indicated the dismal failure in the disaster rescue and relief operations in the past six days.
Mr. Cooper has reported that he has not seen “any organized large scale search” for survivors. Ms. Hancocks confirmed Copper’s observation that she has not seen any “systematic search for survivors” that is what is done in any disaster
CNN’s news anchor Rosemarie Church commented on something intriguing and insightful. She said that you would expect the Philippines to have developed by now its capability in Disaster Relief Operations since we are so used to calamities—from typhoons to earthquakes. The Philippines has over 20 typhoons per year.
Correspondents of CNN have commented that the rescue and relief operations in Tacloban is both slow and there is are no real organized and concerted efforts. Then on its sixth day, relief goods were just trickling in with No food, clean water and medicine. Anderson Cooper reported that the only the makeshift hospital operating in Tacloban has virtually no more medical supplies left.
CNN reporters have covered many other disasters before and they say that the glacial pace of rescue and relief operations has caused desperation amongst the people. Perhaps the jaded correspondents have not seen so many victims –including men – in tears.
No less than the United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos has complained the delivery of the relief goods is “far too slow.” She sadly said that “we have let the people down.” Of course, the “we” is not the United Nations (UN) that provided the relief goods. It is the Presidency of P-Noy that has now been defined.
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org