Helping victims of ‘Paeng’

I am referring to people, netizens in particular, who unconscionably politicize a national calamity with the view to erode public confidence in our incumbent government.

With loving prayers and floral tributes, we honor our dearly departed on All Souls’ Day. They shall forever live in our hearts and minds.

Let us also remember the people who perished during the pandemic and natural disasters. The most recent are the casualties of severe tropical storm “Paeng.” The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Council, in its 31 October situation report, said the tropical cyclone claimed 101 lives, injured 70 persons, and affected 2 million Filipinos in 69 provinces. Another 66 have been reported missing. Many victims were from Maguindanao del Norte, which experienced flash floods and landslides of such deadly scale for the first time.

Government response

To date, the Marcos government has provided some P36.8 million in aid to the affected population. The social welfare department has pre-positioned relief supplies nationwide, a policy carried over from the previous administration.

Preemptively, the government evacuated around 106,000 people in 11 regions nationwide. Sadly, the devastating storm still displaced more than 863,000 individuals. It is an act of God outside the ambit of human control.

Even sadder is that the ‘vultures’ are doing it again. I am referring to people, netizens in particular, who unconscionably politicize a national calamity with the view to erode public confidence in our incumbent government. This lowkey display of schadenfreude (or delight in the misfortune of others) from a faction that supposedly embodies democratic ideals is disturbing. They should stop using the sufferings of disaster victims as capital for their destabilization agenda.

It defies logic to expect our sitting president to be immediately present at ground zero. To effectively manage a crisis, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. should operate in a secure command center so that presidential directives clearly cascade to NDRRMC and other government units. Unlike some of PBBM’s political contemporaries, he has never been a shameless self-promoter. In the 2016 and 2022 elections, albeit with contrasting results, PBBM never made a public spectacle of himself to gain voters. Since assuming the presidency, he has been on top of every government disaster response, which could only come from his executive experience in local government.

In the past, they spectacularly failed in besmirching the Duterte brand of leadership. Their losing streak is bound to continue in the administration of President Marcos Jr. So, enough of what I call the ‘vulture culture’ in the Philippine political sphere.

Important Issues

I like that PBBM questioned the less-than-accurate forecasting of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration relative to “Paeng.” As a senator in the 16th Congress, the president was among the authors of the PAGASA Modernization Act of 2015. The law was an offshoot of a 2013 Commission on Audit findings that PAGASA was ill-equipped to warn the public of incoming disasters and accurately predict the impacts of a super typhoon. According to a recent CNN article, experts say it will become harder to predict the rapid intensification of storms and track their trajectories. Nevertheless, PAGASA must find solutions to this problem in weather forecasting. If the agency had better forecasting abilities, more lives would be saved.

Another issue is the distribution of safe drinking water to the affected population. Access to potable water is crucial to people trapped in flooded areas. At this time and in our way, let us expend resources towards helping the devastated communities. We can donate money or relief goods through national agencies or government-accredited organizations that directly assist typhoon victims.

Ways to help

I know that “Paeng’s” magnitude and scope were felt from the Maguindanao provinces in Mindanao up to Baguio City in Luzon. I was in the City of Pines when the strong winds and rains slammed the province of Benguet.

As mentioned in my previous columns, I have provided “ayuda” to calamity-hit communities since my time as a presidential spokesman. Through the support of like-minded friends, I have been stockpiling relief goods in warehouses to aid our needy kababayans in times of disaster. Aside from being earthquake-prone, our country is visited by at least 20 typhoons annually. Along with a network of Samaritans, I hope to bring relief goods and bottled water to victims in Aklan, Capiz, Baguio City, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Maguindanao del Norte, and Cotobato City.

For those in need of emergency assistance, please leave a message on my official Facebook account, Messenger, or email [email protected] so that I can link you to NDRMMC.

Let us love and help each other in times of need. Stay safe, Philippines!

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