Who is to be believed?
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2013 - 12:00am

The raging dispute between international media networks and President Aquino calls to mind Nietzsche’s teaching that “there are no facts, only interpretations.” One does not need to go deep into philosophy to apply what he says nor do we have to concern ourselves with understanding the entire doctrine of positivism. What Nietzsche says is something we say too when there are conflicting opinions. We also know by instinct that when we talk of two sides, as the case of the dispute in the wake of Yolanda’s tragedy between the Philippine government and international media groups, the truth can only be one or the other.

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At the center of the controversy is whether or not it is a “fact” that the Aquino government was “disorganized” in coming to the aid of the victims of the disaster.  CNN’s Anderson Cooper who was at the scene said “Tacloban is a demolition, not a construction, job.” There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief. CNN journalist Anderson Cooper in his report said what is happening in Tacloban is a “demolition, not a construction job.”

“There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief,” he said. That is what this reporter saw. He is not opposition, he is a reporter, an outsider with a Western cultural outlook with notions of what it means to be “organized.” Then he came up with an even stronger statement “there is no government, no leadership…”  and all dams broke loose.

Filipino opposition has been saying this all along with or without Yolanda — we have an incompetent government — even in normal times.

Could an incompetent government suddenly become competent overnight? They were prepared but not that prepared for something more serious. As someone posted in social media, the Aquino government and its supporters think they were prepared which means they did and were doing something. 

International media has covered other disasters (Fukushima for one). Cooper compared Japanese and Philippine government’s responses to disaster. “After two days, we barely saw bodies scattered around the devastated areas,” Cooper said. And this was done without equipment.  The Japanese soldiers used sticks in search for bodies and survivors.

 In the Philippines, that “something” just wasn’t enough.

I am not an international reporter nor was I on the scene but, I would have the same interpretation as international media. My perception and experience of government in general and the Aquino government in particular comes short of my expectation. It is incompetent and cannot be competent overnight.

As for Korina Sanchez, her attacks on foreign media’s statements are to be expected in defense of her husband, Mar Roxas and strengthen his campaign to lead in 2016. As for Coloma’s most recent remark, it oozes with sarcasm saying “next time, we will be perfect.”

The Aquino government should welcome criticism so it will be better at governing. Not perfect Mr. Coloma. We don’t ask for the moon but let us not put down comments made by outsiders on what most Filipinos already know on how they are governed.

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As for the basis of our perception of incompetence is traceable to many factors – the Smartmatic-PCOS elections, the Napoles Scam, breaking laws and destroying institutions in pursuit of a political agenda, etc. etc. all of these put on hold with the tragedy and chaos brought about by Yolanda.

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Not so with Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard J Gordon who is perceived to be an action man. Whether that can be debated is another question. Suffice it to say that he has reputation that precedes him and proved to be highly effective in managing relief operations for disasters. He has been elected “in absentia” as a member of the Board of Governors of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

He opted not to go the Biennial Statutory Meetings of the IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sydney because of the calamities in Leyte and Samar.

He has built a reputation as someone who knows what to do during crisis and calamities.

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Mining groups under the umbrella of the Philippine Mining Safety and Environment Association under Louie Sarmiento were also among the first in the scene with their technical know-how and their expertise gained from disasters in mining. In partnership with the GlobalMedic of Canada, they had water purifiers on board a C130 on the way to Tacloban and Ormoc the next day.

The group was still mopping out work done in Bohol after the recent 7.2 earthquake. They are immediately in touch with partners abroad like GlobalMedic of Canada among others. It has the infrastructure that must be immediately available to respond to emergency. A classmate from St. Scholastica’s College Chita Puno made the connections for the Benedictine sisters in Tacloban

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I also learned a valuable lesson. Family networks may have their bad side but they are good as an immediate organization for getting things done especially when it comes to responding to emergencies. They do not have to wait for bureaucratic decisions that sometimes come too late. Moreover, they use their own resources.  On the evening of Yolanda’s scourge of Tacloban and Ormoc, we were into our emails, cellphones and facebook immediately to make a head count that all were safe. The caretaker of the Pedrosa ancestral house in Palo was reported missing. Everyone pitched in to find him and his family. 

The roof of the Larrazabals’ (my in-laws) house in Ormoc was also destroyed. Since Veronica was scheduled to come to Manila to report on the scene for Al-Jazeera she called to ask me to buy a long shopping list before she arrived that evening, bring it to the airport where she would wait outside the terminal and carry it on board the plane to Cebu and then by boat to Ormoc.

 It was her birthday but the thought never occurred to her that she would be in the midst of tragedy and chaos when it was called for regardless of the date.

 

 

ANDERSON COOPER AQUINO BIENNIAL STATUTORY MEETINGS BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES GOVERNMENT TACLOBAN TACLOBAN AND ORMOC YOLANDA
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