LEGACY of neglect. REP. Terry Ridon used these most eloquent and damning words about the failure of the Aquino Administration to do much more than the little it has done to help rebuild the lives of the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which ravaged Leyte and other parts of the Visayas exactly two years ago today (November 8)
Yolanda killed thousands of our fellow Filipinos in the Visayas–up to 15,000 or even more of them, according to expert estimates, including that of the Red Cross. But the government agencies stopped counting the dead at less than 3,000 because an unreasonably and unjustly enraged President B. S. Aquino berated the local and national government officials giving the body counts. That incident further bolstered the image of a quirky Philippine president who hates to hear bad news even if it is his duty to do something about it.
Speaking yesterday, former Budget Secretary and UP Economic Professor Benjamin Diokno and Aaron James Almadro, who lost both his parents at the height of Yolanda’s fury, both claimed that a Commission on Audit (COA) report about unused disaster relief funds displayed government apathy toward the plight of victims.
Epic incompetence and callousness
“Epic incompetence and callousness. The failure to address the needs of disaster victims after two years is unacceptable,” Diokno said.
It is undeniable that thousands rendered homeless by Yolanda two years ago still live in smelly and unsanitary tents and bunkhouses where children as well as adults are exposed to diseases and the risk of contaminating each other. Some of these have no access to potable water.
Congressman Ridon also said, “Any reasonable person will be enraged by the fact that our countrymen in Eastern Visayas suffered hunger in the aftermath of Yolanda, while millions worth of relief goods just spoil in DSWD’s storehouses. While many typhoon victims have yet to recover from the disaster, now we find out that DSWD is withholding even the release of cash donations both from domestic and international sources.”
He asked that those responsible for the relief fiasco be held accountable.
“The only legacy that the Aquino administration is bound to leave to Yolanda victims is the legacy of longstanding neglect. This is the legacy that will continue to haunt Aquino and his chosen heir Mar Roxas in the months to come,” he said.
A few good things
A few good things have happened though. Most of these the work of private sector and civil society groups.
One of these cheerful events is in the Leyte town of Tolosa, which Yolanda nearly totally ravaged and whose fishing industry was laid to waste.
The civil society group Tindog Tolosa (Visayan language for “Rise up, Tolosa”), run by Makati-based professionals was inspired by Pope Francis’ call to help the poor, and the teachings of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei. Tindog Tolosa has done wonders in that Leyte town, carrying out three main projects–helping victims construct their new homes not with doles but by providing them volunteer workers (“voluntourists from Metro Manila and abroad) as well as financing that they must however pay for at extremely light rates.
Tindog Tolosa has also arranged for the fishing industry to come back to life by organizing fiberglass-boat donations to Tolosa fishermen.
It has also formed a consumer cooperative for the people of Tolosa through which they could raise funds from profits made from their production so they can pay for reconstruction work and finance new business ventures.
And of course Tindog Tolosa has also paid attention to rebuilding schools and providing books.
This is the kind of aid for disaster victims that manages to raise the social development of victims while helping them to recover.
May there be more civil society groups like Tindog Tolosa.