Post-disaster finger pointing will get us nowhere

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Based on Ronda's tragic experience, two days before New Year, pointing fingers will only exacerbate our woes and won't solve anything. Perhaps, both the people and the local government were right. Or perhaps, they were both wrong. It does not matter anymore in the face of tremendous losses, when many perished and a lot of properties were lost. Perhaps both officials and constituencies were complacent and were too busy celebrating. Then Seniang came like a thief in the night. We cannot blame the people for not heeding the warning given by the local government. And we could not blame the local government as well.

Blaming is not the solution. The only proper way to address this situation is to reflect deeply and learn from our errors, from our complacency, from our lack of preparedness, from our overconfidence. When all the dead are buried with dignity and peace, when all the mud are washed away and when people are calm, cool and collected, it is time to give them what the psychologists call a post-disaster debriefing. An expert from DSWD perhaps or from DILG should conduct this series of sessions for at least three purposes: first, to remove the trauma; second, to learn from the experience; and third, to plan for the next one. The experts say that disasters always strike twice. Let us be prepared.

The Ronda experience was a perfect example of people who were not inclined to leave their homes in the midst of merriment. The officials were also preparing their own family celebrations. A lot of relatives were in town, visiting old folks. They were just opening their gifts after Christmas, holding family reunions and class reunions, getting together and enjoying whatever was left of the lechon and the hams. The good mayor already called the barangay captains and instructed them to warn their constituents that another typhoon was going to hit the town. We have no doubt that the village chiefs told one or two people. But not everybody was notified. 

The truth is, after Ruby, people became complacent. The preparation for Ruby was almost perfect. Thus, Ruby's impact was mild, minimal and was hardly felt at all. When the whole country was warned about Ruby, they obeyed. People were afraid because of Yolanda's wrath and its very massive and far-reaching damage. But after Ruby, people never expected Seniang to be that destructive. That is the problem when we never learn from experience. We should always expect the worst although we pray hard for the best. Today, as we bury our dead and pick up the broken pieces, we should resolve to be better and be more prepared for the next disaster.

After all the storms in our life's struggles, we should have learned by now. Every disaster is a promise that there will be a next one. What matters most is that, every time we are hit, we become stronger and wiser, and hopefully, more united. Instead of bashing each other, we have to learn how to cooperate, synchronize and plan together. The more we point fingers, the more vulnerable we become.


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