Indict Aquino for criminal negligence and demand justice


Editorial
Ang Bayan

It is just for the Filipino people, especially the millions of victims of the recent disaster to rise up in protest and indict Benigno Aquino III for his criminal negligence which brought death to more than 4,000 people and caused injuries to tens of thousands on November 8 as supertyphoon Yolanda barreled through the Philippines and wrought widespread devastation. The Filipino people demand justice.

They must take the Aquino regime to task for its failure to effect the rapid evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people living along coastal areas, near riverbanks and at the foot of mountains who were in danger from floods or storm surges. This, despite warnings from weather forecasters that a massive evacuation was needed up to 8 to 16 kilometers inland in areas along the supertyphoon's path.

All Aquino did was to go on television on the eve of the supertyphoon's arrival to give a weather forecast. No mass evacuations were undertaken in Tacloban City, which has a population of scarcely 200,000. In contrast, the Vietnamese government evacuated 600,000 people almost two days before typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) hit its coastal areas. Vietnam sustained less than ten deaths.

There was no government presence in Tacloban City in the first 48 hours after the supertyphoon struck and completely devastated the city. The local government was completely wiped out. It turns outs that the national government did not even have a system in place to look into the situation in the stricken towns despite the fact that communication lines were completely cut off in these areas. It only began to take measures after local and foreign journalists fed images on primetime television of the widepread devastation in Leyte 36 hours after the typhoon.

Chaos began to erupt on the second day of the calamity as a result of the lack of food and water. Instead of rushing in emergency supplies, the Aquino government deployed thousands of armed soldiers and police personnel in an effort to quell the mass discontent. The Aquino regime even had the gall to invoke the tragedy to cover up the AFP's offensive operations in various parts of the Visayas. MalacaƱang also spread intrigues against the NPA to justify the deployment of soldiers in different areas.

Aquino only declared a "state of national calamity" four days after the widespread devastation. It took him and his officials five days to realize that the transportation of emergency supplies to Tacloban and elsewhere will be the "largest logistical effort" yet to be undertaken by the government. 

The Aquino regime failed to effect the massive mobilization of ships and other sea transport despite the fact that Tacloban and other Leyte towns are but a few hours away from the central commercial port of Cebu or from other ports in Luzon and Mindanao. 

Neither did Aquino take measures to supplement the roll-on-roll-off transport ships at the Matnog port in Sorsogon, resulting in a long queue of trucks and other land vehicles carrying emergency food and medical supplies and personnel from Metro Manila to Samar and Leyte. 

To cover up his incompetence, Aquino and his PR staff unleashed a campaign to downplay the tragedy and blame the ensuing devastation on his rivals. Aquino insisted that the number of deaths will not go beyond 2,500 but this was quickly shot down by the United Nations when it revealed its independent estimated death toll of 4,500. Aquino's tourism officials even declared that the Philippines "is still fun" to visit even as thousands of victims had to go on long queues and beg for food, water and other assistance. 

More than a week after the supertyphoon unleashed its fury, thousands of people have yet to receive emergency supplies and medical care. Food and water are in short supply. The government has not even provided temporary shelters for the thousands who had lost their homes.

International relief organizations, the media and even the United Nations are thoroughly disappointed with the Aquino government's failure to provide emergency supplies to hundreds of thousands of other victims more than ten days since the supertyphoon hit. There have also been complaints of aid packages from other countries being opened and repacked by government agencies.

The government has not provided any funds to the victims to enable them to rebuild their lives. It should be the state's responsibility to secure the people against the destruction of their property. But the government has no plans to provide compensation to the victims.

Tacloban City, as well as other cities, have become practically uninhabitable, and will remain so for the next several weeks or months. Yet the government has made no effort to bring people en masse to other areas where they could be provided electricity, health care, shelter, food and temporary livelihood. 

The government's failed response is so blatant, leading some people to think that Aquino is deliberately displaying incompetence in order to make the US military forces look like the heroes and thus justify the presence of a giant US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, at least six other warships, and nearly 10,000 American troops.

The Filipino people must rise up in protest at the Aquino regime's gross incompetence. They must spurn appeals from Aquino government loyalists to refrain from blaming Aquino and unite with him instead. In fact, they must indict Benigno Aquino III for the deaths of thousands due to his government's failure to take preventive action.

The Filipino people must demand justice for the plight of the hundreds of thousands of calamity victims. The Aquino regime must pay for the terrible tragedy that has befallen the people, not so much because of the supertyphoon, but of the Aquino regime's gross failure to undertake disaster preparedness programs and post-calamity emergency relief. 

They must demand that the Aquino regime provide the people immediate emergency relief funds (not loans!) to resume their livelihood, emergency employment and pensions, reparation and the cancellation of all debts to government agencies. 

They must assail the Aquino regime for allotting a measly P7 billion for calamities, which resulted in its inability to set up the necessary infrastructure to prepare for and address emergency situations. Instead, Aquino has been content to allot monies from his unprogrammed funds to justify bloating the President's Social Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). 

On the other hand, the Aquino regime is not keen on carrying out a massive environmental regeneration program to desilt the rivers and other critical water systems and undertake massive reforestation and is instead bent on bringing in foreign mining companies to continue plundering the environment.