Millions of Filipinos openly saw the criminal neglect of Rodrido Duterte’s government amid devastation brought by typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses. As they drowned in floods and rains, Duterte comfortably slept through his responsibilities and duties. To coverup his failings, he blamed victims for supposedly not heeding warnings by authorities. Worse, he chided those who extended help and threatened those who protested the negligence.
Duterte failed to coordinate different agencies and local units, quickly put in place measures and and preposition enough personnel and equipment for rapid response. For years, his regime has cut calamity funds thus impairing responders to simultaneously respond to various disaster-stricken areas.
As a result, millions of Filipinos now suffer the destruction brought by floods and landslides. Several thousand homes in rural areas, town centers and cities were destroyed by strong winds and raging water and mudflow. Ricefields, vegetable gardens and others crops were inundated. Fishing boats were smashed. Hard earned property and means of living were destroyed. Many were left with nothing. Electricity and water services of private companies were cut. Initial estimate of damage is at P12.3 billion.
Government aid is grossly insufficient and arrives ever so slow. Thousands remain in congested evacuation centers where they are vulnerable to Covid-19 infections.
Praiseworthy are efforts by mass organizations and individuals to extend aid to survivors. But these are limited and must not be regarded as substitute to the duty of the state to respond systematically to the widespread needs of calamity victims.
It is just that Duterte be firmly held accountable amid disaster especially with regard his regime’s priorities in terms of funds and attention. It continues to prioritize counterinsurgency and corruption. It continues to give priority to counterinsurgency and corruption-riddled infrastructure projects. It has cut funds to calamity response by providing it a mere P15.7 billion, 60% lower than P39 billion in 2017. Redirecting funds from repression to rehabilitation must be pushed including the P19 billion NTF-ELCAC funds. The immediate distribution of P83 billion funds being kept in the DSWD coffers must be pushed to benefit victims of the pandemic and calamity.
In the face of the regime’s failed response, people’s unity and action must be strengthened and expanded to amplify the demand for the regime to account for its ineptness and neglect. It must reach communities, offices and factories and other places where the regime’s intimidation and disinformation reign. They must turn their communities and evacuation areas into centers of protest to push the regime to mobilize all its agencies and resources to prioritize rehabilitation of all affected. As long as cries are disparate, Duterte will simply ignore the people’s anger and disgust.
Victims must understand that they need not wait, plead or beg for the national government’s material and financial aid. They have the right to promptly receive state aid for their food, water, clothing, hygiene and medical needs. They have the right to funds and services for quick clean-up of their flooded communities, rapid restoration of water and electricity services and assistance for rebuilding homes and infrastructure. It is their right to receive emergency aid to recompense their flood-damaged property including their jeeps, motorcycles, boats, home appliances and others. They have the right to receive state funds to compensate for destroyed fields, businesses and other means of livelihood.
Every year, more than 20 storms enter the Philippines. It is thus just to demand that officials, agencies and companies be made to account for the inundation of communities as in the case of Magat Dam. The disaster-preparedness of these agencies must be assessed in order to prevent repeated tragedies.
The regime must also be held to account for its failure after four years to carry out substantial environmental rehabilitation, dredging of rivers and lakes and other measures to prevent flooding. Denounce Duterte for his sham demand for “climate justice” while it relentlessly pushes for mining, logging and foreign-funded infrastructure projects that bring widespread environmental destruction.
The Duterte regime’s criminal neglect of the people’s well-being amid the calamity comes on top of several months of failed response to the pandemic, economic devastation and brazen corruption. It brings disaster with its unremitting borrowing from foreign institutions, pro-capitalist policies that oppress workers, lack of subsidies for agriculture and other measures that bring worse sufferings to the impoverished masses.
Duterte is a disaster who for four years has devastated the country and slaughters anyone in his path. He has brought immeasurable destruction to fields, businesses and livelihood of millions of people. The people’s anger must continue to be consolidated into a storm of protests that will push Duterte to resign or cause his ouster from power and subsequently make him for all his crimes.