Post-Yolanda “Storm-Swords” and the “Politics of The Platters”

(The Freeman) - November 25, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines – I understand the bitter resentment and the popular perception of my fellow Yolanda survivors that the national government is handling the rehabilitation efforts with the speed of a turtle dying with a combined illness of a stage four cancer and an ebola virus.

In reality, however, the meager achievement in the rehabilitation phase is not just the fault of the national government. It is largely attributable to snags in finding suitable sites for housing settlements, the hesitancy of some victims to abandon their dwellings in no build-zones and strict guidelines that must be followed prior to disbursement of public funds in a post-DAP/PDAF setting.

Worse, some LGUs are hesitant to allocate their prime lots for housing projects because they are earmarked for sale or lease to big businesses that could generate much-needed funds - not to mention commissions and kickbacks. Thus, some LGUs would rather go through the tedious legal process of expropriating private lands which, of course, would be met with stiff resistance from the affected landowners.

I should know. Our law office was recently embroiled in an eminent domain case which was filed by an LGU that wanted to summarily use a client’s land as a resettlement site. An international NGO and few LGUs hired us to review and make recommendations on contracts involving housing resettlement projects.

What I found out is that most of the contracts came in the form of a tripartite memorandum of agreement involving the LGUs’ (city or municipality and the provincial government), the national government agency concerned and an NGO.

For the project to bear fruit, each party assumes a significant role which requires them to perform specific tasks. It goes without saying, therefore, that if two of the contracting parties would rather make sweeping motherhood statements in interviews and press releases instead of working together, then expect that the project will advance painfully slow if not altogether scrapped.

Of course, for us typhoon victims especially those who are still jobless and living in cramped temporary shelters, we want concrete results such that no amount of explanation could simmer down our burning rage and boiling anger.

Nevertheless, if we continue to add fuel to the already blazing inferno of finger-pointing among our politicians, we would only be making things more difficult for the real victims of this tragedy whom are the displaced, the homeless, the widowed and the orphans of Yolanda.

Their wounded pride and bruised ego notwithstanding, our politicians can take care of themselves, so quit worrying about them. While most of us are struggling to survive, our politicians will continue to thrive and could still afford to buy our votes come elections on 2016.

And so amidst this deafening political noise which I call as the clanking of post-Yolanda “storm-swords”, I pray for cooler heads to step in. Instead of sponsoring a Binay-Trillanes debate, perhaps the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas could rechannel its energy by inviting all stakeholders in the Yolanda rehabilitation to a televised dialogue where all could air out their grievances, find solutions and get their acts together.

That is why I am saddened that some local politicians are riding the waves of Pinoy-protests as if they too don’t have blood in their hands and are not part of the collective blame.

In the early days and months after Yolanda, their lame excuse was that, instead of being made to account for what has happened, everyone should instead focus on burying the dead and that in helping the displaced and the injured seemed reasonable, albeit, a bitter pill to swallow.

But one year has passed and if we are really steadfast in our quest for justice, maybe it is about time that we should also start asking for answers to some nagging questions such as: Where were our public servants on the crucial days and hours leading to November 8, 2013?

If they were out of their province, city or municipality, when did they return to their respective kingdoms given the mega-disaster that was then fast approaching to our shores? Did they choose to err on the side of caution or on the side of comparative inaction?

Were they on top of the situation, or did they personally preside over disaster-preparedness meetings and visited communities at risk or they just left the matter to their deputies? Did they even prepare for a worst case scenario and devised not just a Plan “A” but several alternatives - a Plan “B” and Plan “C” for example?

With access to critical information and with the resources and manpower at their disposal, did they perform the extra-ordinary diligence required under the circumstances which could have minimize the loss of lives?

More importantly, as their constituents’ first line of defense and given the predicted magnitude of the perils that will be brought by the coming super typhoon, did they even coordinate with the national government as to how and where could its pertinent agencies position themselves so that they could be of immediate assistance? Or did they link arms with these agencies only after the typhoon, that is, after they realized that they have nothing more to gain or profit if they continue ruling their respective turfs with an iron hand and a closed fist?

To be honest, I am quite puzzled as to why this issue was swept under the rug and not a single soul has raised such questions in the open. Kung sabagay, given that most of us received bribes in exchange for our votes, perhaps we are resigned to the idea that our local leaders don’t owe us an explanation because mga bayad naman kita.

The bottom line is that I wish we should be discerning enough to distinguish those Yolanda victims who are genuinely searching for justice and those who have mastered the art of “Platters Politics” and are just using our pain and anguish for personal, political and ideological gain. (“The Platters” was one of the greatest rhythm and blues band that sang the 1950’s hit song “The Great Pretender”.)

To those who would disagree with this post, my apologies. I am just an ordinary person freely expressing my views on a Tuesday night. I am busy such that I have no intention nor time to engage anybody in a debate here.

It’s just that recent events reminded me of a man named Jesus who walked the cobbled streets of Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. Christ welcomed and bestowed forgiveness to the prostitutes, the taxmen and the petty thieves. There was one class of people in his time though whom Christ could not stomach and had a zero-tolerance: They were the hypocrites. — Atty. Roy Percival M. Perez (president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Leyte chapter)

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with