TACLOBAN City Mayor Alfred Romualdez on Monday expressed anger and frustration over what he considered as the inaction of national government officials in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, particularly the refusal of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to provide manpower to help look for survivors and help the victims.
At the post-assessment hearing on Yolanda called by the Senate, Romualdez said he asked for additional security troops to replace members of the city’s police force who were themselves victims of the typhoon.
“I was asking for support, more foot soldiers to scour the areas, to secure the place and conduct rescue. I was never given that. In fact, I mentioned it to the President and the DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] secretary to augment the police force, but instead they removed the police chief,” Romualdez, who was close to tears, said.
He said he made the request for troop augmentation a day after the typhoon hit because the city’s police force was reduced from 293 officers to just 25.
Romualdez said he repeated his request during their nightly meetings with officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other national government agencies, but his pleas went unanswered.
He said Roxas asked him to have the city council come up with an ordinance for a curfew to be imposed but Romualdez said that it is not doable since the council members were also victims of the typhoon.
Roxas then asked him to write a letter stating that the local government of Tacloban could no longer function and that it is allowing the national government to come in.
But Romualdez said his lawyers advised him not to make a letter because it may be deemed as a resignation.
“If you can muster thousands (of troops) for the security of the President, why can’t you provide forces to secure the city?” he said, referring to Roxas.
The mayor said he could not understand why the national government needed a letter signed by him in order to legalize the presence of the government in Tacloban.
“Secretary Roxas said we should legalize everything. I could not understand why I could not get support from the national government. Secretary Roxas said that ‘we have to be careful because you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino’,” the Tacloban mayor said.
Interviewed after the hearing, Romualdez said Tacloban has not received even a small portion of the foreign donations sent by various countries and foreign organizations.
He made it clear that he was not suggesting that there is something wrong with the relief
distribution carried out by the national government.
“What is being projected is that we have been getting huge amounts of donation, but honestly what we are receiving are donations coming from the local government units. We have not received a single cash or centavo from the international committee,” he told reporters.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, who presided the hearing, said the committee will invite Roxas to the next hearing.
Roxas was invited to the hearing yesterday but did not show up.
Trillanes said the committee would like to know why the DILG was involved in the relief and rescue operations when the law states that it should be the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committee.