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Mar Roxas and the failure in Tacloban

The way Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez told a Senate Committee hearing Tuesday, December 9, the national government, represented by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas let Leyte in general and Tacloban, its capital, down soon after the devastating Yolanda typhoon made landfall November 8. That failure proved disastrous and deadly.

Had help from Manila come early enough, the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wounded victims and those trapped in the debris of the storm surge could have been saved. As it happened, the wounded died and the dead were not recovered or collected, even to this day, when 60 to 80 bodies could still be uncovered, according to Mayor Romualdez.

Hours after Yolanda, racing at 330 kilometers an hour, made landfall in Tacloban at past 8 the morning of Friday, November 8, the once bustling city and trading hub was leveled to the ground. Buildings were unroofed, houses were demolished, trees were uprooted, animals and human beings drowned or flew to their death, thanks to the storm surge that generated 20 feet of swirling walls of water that rushed up to five kilometers inland from the sea.

At this writing, December 10, the government National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), had listed 5,936 dead. Of that, 5,087 or 86 percent, came from the province of Leyte. Of the 5,087 Leyte casualties, 2,321-- 46 percent—came from Tacloban. All the 2,321 dead from Tacloban were marked as “unidentified”. Nine of every ten casualties from Yolanda came from Leyte; and five of every ten Leyte dead came from Tacloban.

In addition to the 5,936 dead, 1,779 are missing (I presume they are dead) for a total casualty toll of 7,715.

More than 27,000 were injured by Yolanda. Total damage was placed by the NDRRMC at P35.5 billion – P18.2 billion in infra (including P14.48 billion of roads and bridges and P2.3 billion worth of schools) plus P17.32 billion damage in agriculture. Total families affected was placed at 2.615 million or 12.356 million people—of whom 882,185 families or 4.05 million people were displaced, meaning they lost their houses or had to be evacuated.

With the global attention focused on post-Haiyan Philippines, you would think Eastern Visayas has received several billions of aid or windfall, from the government and foreign agencies. No.

The NDRRMC lists only P1.046 billion worth of assistance given the affected families—not to Region VIII alone but to all eight regions affected by Yolanda – IV-A, IV-B, V, VII, VIII, X, XI and CARAGA. Only about P115.96 million was given to the LGUs in these areas.

Divide the P1,046,969,910 or P1.046 billion assistance by the number of displaced persons –4.05 million, you get P258 (258 pesos) per person for one month or P8.60 per day. This P8.60 is for each person who has no food to eat, no water to drink, no medicines to cure his wounds, no clothes to warm his bodies, and no shelter to sleep in. The inmates of the National Bilibid Prisons get a better deal—they have at least P22 allowance for every meal and the live in concrete houses, away from sun and surf.

Most of the aid came as warm bodies—35,381 personnel, according to NDRRMC. That’s an average of six aid workers for every dead person or 1.3 persons per injured person. But did the Warays get the sense that helped went to them? No.

At the Senate hearing, Tacloban Mayor Romualdez couldn’t help but cry. “People were feeling frustrated seeing all these military planes and trucks and yet, ‘yung mga patay nila katabi nila,” the mayor related. “’Yung mga naririnig nila mga boses na pwede pang ma i-rescue.”

Days after the disaster, the mayor continued to appeal to the national government “for support, more foot soldiers to scour the area, to secure the places and conduct a rescue of the people.” “I was never given that,” he sobbed.

Alfred asked DILG Secretary Roxas, who has jurisdiction over the national police, to deploy additional policemen in Tacloban because 90 percent of its police force was decimated. No help came.

Instead, Mar Roxas tried to oust Alfred as mayor of Tacloban. He demanded a city ordinance transferring power to the DILG chief. Good thing the city council could not be convened because it too was decimated and had no quorum.

Alfred wondered why Roxas would be so legalistic as to ask for a transfer of power, a coup on an LGU.

Roxas’s reply stunned Romualdez: “You have to remember: We have to be very careful because you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.”

In the NDRRMC’s December 10 status report, Mar Roxas’s name is not listed as leading any of the ten post-Yolanda task forces – Flood and Water (Corazon Soliman), Cadaver Collection (BFP F/Supt. Cordeta), Debris Clearing (Francis Tolentino), Law and Order (PNP Gen. Alex Paul Monteagudo), Health (Dr. Emmanuel Bueno), Yolanda (MGen. Jet Velarmino), Logistics (PDep DG Rojas), Relief, Rehab and Reconstruction (President Aquino), and Normalization (Coordinator Energy Secretary Petilla, Leyte Vice Governor Carlo Loreto and Tacloban City Administrator Tecson Lim).

At press time, Mar Roxas still had to give his side of this sordid story.

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