I had dinner recently with Mayor Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City. That was a first. I have been consistently an anti-Marcos activist since my grade school days. I’ve always thought that the Philippines would be a better place without the Marcoses and their conjugal half, the Romualdezes. Like the Aquino’s, my mother’s immediate family, including the Reyes clan of Pasig that gave the country the great statesman, Jovito Salonga, were victims of the Marcos dictatorship. Scars from those days will probably never heal. And perhaps, they should never heal if only to remind us of what dictatorships can do to a democracy.
But I was touched by the tale of Mayor Romualdez.
We’ve heard over and over again the Palace line that the local government is always the first line of defense. That is true because normally, the national government will not be in the area affected by a calamity.
But this was not the case in Tacloban. Pagasa warned us about the onslaught of Yolanda. This was why P Noy sent Secretaries Mar Roxas and Voltaire Gazmin to Tacloban before the typhoon’s landfall to coordinate disaster preparedness. Ergo, this means that the mantra about the LGU’s being the first line of defense is inapplicable because Malacañang, through the closest allies of PNOY- was already in Tacloban.
Then there was the looting. According to Mayor Romualdez, they repeatedly requested from both secretaries to deploy additional soldiers or policemen immediately after the storm precisely because they anticipated the breakdown of peace and order. This fell on deaf ears and instead, the DILG deployed additional firemen. Naturally, with the people hungry and with no assistance immediately forthcoming, the worse did happen.
Then there is the reason behind the national government’s inaction. I doubt if anyone who has access to the Internet has not yet seen the infamous video of Secretary Mar demanding the effective resignation of Romualdez as the pre-condition for assistance to Tacloban. I had of course heard about this prior to the video and could not believe it. I had to see the short version and the full version of the video before I could believe that Mar Roxas and P Noy were capable of this.
I have been an ardent advocate for humanitarian law because in times of the worse disasters, both man made or otherwise, humanity deserves humanitarian assistance pursuant to the law of nations, laws of humanity and dictates of conscience. This is otherwise known as the Martens clause. Simply put, civilized people will provide humanitarian assistance to those in need because they are human beings. This is a right which is not subject to discrimination be it based on race, gender, or membership in a political group. Certainly, the fact that the Romualdezes are the Aquino’s political nemesis is not a reason to condemn the entire population of disaster stricken Tacloban to doom. That at least, is the standards recognized by civilized people of the world.
It comes therefore as no surprise that the media has again reported that despite the misfortune of Tacloban, even the bunkhouses built for the victims of the strongest typhoon in the world would be the source of tongpats for some in the administration. How can these people make money out of the misery of others?
Because the PNoy administration embraced anyone and everyone singing praises to it, including many of those whose business is always to be allied with those in power unabashedly singing “when we hold on together” with the devil reincarnate; we have the mess that we find now in Tacloban.
Make no mistake about it. The fault lies not just with Mar Roxas. PNoy, in his pronouncements in Japan, ratified and adopted Mar’s actions as his own. No wonder the people of Tacloban have lost hope that Malacañang will come to their rescue. Perhaps, it was destined that the people of Tacloban will rise again- no thanks to Malacañang, but with the assistance from civil society and the private sector. Maybe in this manner, we can even spare scarce taxpayers money from benefitting (again) the plunderers in this administration.
But the administration better watch out. For while it has condemned Tacloban to perish from the face of this earth to benefit its political allies, the law is very clear. Graft can be committed not just by stealing public funds, assuming it is true that the President has not been stealing public funds himself, which I tend to believe. It can also be committed by “(f) Neglecting or refusing, x x x without sufficient justification, to act within a reasonable time on any matter pending before him for x x x the purpose of favoring his own interest or giving undue advantage in favor of or discriminating against any other interested party”.
Refusing to assist calamity stricken Tacloban just to defeat a political opponent and to install political allies in the city will fall in this category of graft.