I feel sorry for the President.
I’m sure he’s trying his best, doing what he should, instead of what he would and even more than what he could.
But he can only do so much, responding to a disaster of Yolanda’s magnitude. That’s why he should accept all the help he can get, though it may come from his political opponents. There’s just no time for politics right now. And there’s no time for passing the buck, either. Blaming his local chief executives for their failures (while understandable, out of frustration perhaps) does nothing but leave a bad taste in the mouth. It doesn’t do any good and it makes him look bad. I hope for everyone’s sake he finally owns up to things and admits there were certain lapses along the way. There’s nothing wrong with that. Honesty, in this day and age, may not be the best of policies but it’s a critical start.
Instead of charging folks for their mistakes, he should focus his attention on the ongoing rebuilding process, which is almost too impossible to pull off. He should coordinate relief efforts, pool together resources, and make his people work instead of wasting too much time in their usual photo ops. With millions in aid pouring in from both the private sector and the international community, he should guarantee that this will not fall into the wrong hands and will be distributed properly to where it should go.
And when the dust finally settles, he should make an honest-to-goodness assessment of where his government has gone wrong so that proper adjustments could be made.
For example, whatever happened to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council? Under Republic Act 10121, it has been transformed into an interagency institution, supposedly tasked to come up with a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, if only to mitigate the pernicious effects of disasters and respond to their aftermath. I’m not so sure if there is really such a plan. Judging from the grim images of devastation of Yolanda’s onslaught, it looks like there is none and if there is, it seems the plan is that there is no plan. With huge resources expended, it seems all the council has ever done is equip itself with rubber boats.
Or what about the calamity funds supposedly intended for local government units (LGUs)? The same law allows for its immediate release so these LGUs can utilize 70 percent for risk reduction measures and 30 percent for quick response activities. I wonder if they received their respective shares. If not, why? Or what about the quick response fund? This year, the government allotted P1.74 billion for this. How is it being mobilized?
Or what about the seeming fragmented efforts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the other departments? Their efforts are so uncoordinated that it’s not a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, but that of the left not knowing what it’s doing to begin with.
I really hope the President addresses these concerns. Of course, he can do this the moment he eschews politics and, instead, holds accountable those who are responsible for why the system failed, as he puts it and comes up with concrete programs of action.
With the announcement that Congress may allocate rehabilitation funds of at least P10 billion in the 2014 General Appropriations Act, the President may have something significant to work on. This time though he shouldn’t let corruption or politics get in the way.
Lawyer Edward Chico is vice chair of the Commercial Law Department of the RVR College of Business of De La Salle University. He may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.