The “Yolanda” response proved to be the epitome of the insensitivity and incompetence of former President Noynoy Aquino.
The sordid details of the bungled effort were disclosed by Sen. Ping Lacson, former rehabilitation czar for “Yolanda”-devastated regions, who revealed the deplorable amount devoted to rehabilitation which in effect showed Noynoy did nearly nothing except empty rhetorics for the victims.
The Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) was mostly undertaken through the effort of the business sector and non-government organizations instead of the government.
International groups like the USAID, the United Nations Development Program, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Bank did more than Noynoy and his administration for the typhoon-hit provinces.
In all, Lacson said a regrettable P1 billion was allocated for the implementation of CRRP for “Yolanda” victims which is worth a total of P167.8 billion in committed projects that even attracted foreign financing.
Noynoy saw the “Yolanda” tragedy through his vindictive lenses as the government response started with an argument over control of Tacloban City which had then Alfred Romualdez as mayor.
Romualdez is the nephew of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos who is the political nemesis of Noynoy’s father, ex-Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, it was only when international media took notice of the incompetence of the central government in providing relief and when Noynoy was starting to get the heat from international media that resources, including heavy equipment needed to clear the roads for the delivery of relief goods to flow, were delivered.
Noynoy blamed the local government of Tacloban City for the high number of casualties from a storm surge which is a freak occurrence that would be impossible to anticipate.
Noynoy then kept pounding on Romualdez during interviews by international news networks to deflect the blame from the national government on the slow response to the catastrophe.
A total admission of helplessness was reflected when he ordered government officials to stop counting the dead after the toll reached 6,000.
Noynoy tried to play down the tragedy that was seen then as a clumsy effort to turn around a growing global assessment that he is failing as President to adequately address the crisis.
PNP Region 8 head Chief Supt. Elmer Soria was then dismissed and ordered to undergo “stress debriefing” after he gave a realistic estimate of 10,000 casualties in Tacloban City alone to foreign media.
Noynoy later on in an interview with CNN remarked that the more realistic figure was around 2,500 who perished from the typhoon and not 10,000 which he said came from a “stressed local government source.”
Only when international help, primarily the arrival of battleships of major powers sent to the Visayas region, did serious relief operations start.
Still Noynoy insisted that relief operations were the primary responsibility of the local government.
The political squeeze on Romualdez happened even as the mayor declared the Tacloban City government resources were all washed out by the typhoon and its accompanying storm surge.
Then Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, designated as pointman for “Yolanda” rescue and recovery, also demanded that Romualdez cede local government operations to him which the mayor turned down.
The naming of Lacson as rehabilitation czar turned out to be a mere publicity stunt and his term was mostly devoted to coordination since he did not get blanket authority and had to carry out programs which needed to be known to the inner circle of Noynoy, mainly Mar.
Of the money earmarked for rehabilitation, massive irregularities were also reported such as the overpriced bunkhouses of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The DPWH gave a lousy excuse then that shelter projects it handled “may be substandard but not overpriced.”
The president is an Aquino and the Tacloban City mayor is a Romualdez, which was how Roxas berated the mayor during a meeting where he demanded to take over control of the city, depicted the quality of response the administration of Noynoy devoted to the city and the “Yolanda” victims as a whole.
The “Yolanda” experience was Noynoy’s perfect breakdown that showed he was unfit for the presidency.