“She [even] further cited improvements.”
This was presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda’s comment when Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson Grace Pulido Tan described the chaos in handling aid for Yolanda (Haiyan) victims.
What day is it again? Oh, March 18, 2014. When did the most powerful tropical cyclone of the year Yolanda strike? November 8, 2013.
It’s been more than four months. How do Filipinos react to news like this? Pointing fingers. Still looking for updates. Cynical. How do you think the victims are reacting? Disappointed. Anticipating help. Angry. Still recovering. Still breathing. Still grieving.
The world was watching. We showed resilience. We sang new songs and we danced to Pharrell’s song. The world helped. Aid poured in: boxes and choppers and trucks and ships and tanks of help. We showed gratitude.
But we admittedly were ashamed of how mismanaged the relief operations were. More than finding out what was going on, netizens patrolled for the world, for the victims, or for their own peace of mind. Donations with the donor’s names went viral. Volunteers spoke about alleged witnessing imported noodles being separated from the local brands. The media followed Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Mar Roxas. And, of course, millions of watchful eyes focused on the president and his next statements. Politicking couldn’t be contained off-camera. Egos were hurt. Patience was tested. International news coverage put us on the spotlight — something we Filipinos are fond of but didn’t appreciate at that point. While many wanted accountancy and taking responsibility, the rest just wanted help to get to its intended recipients. Sooner than never.
If the tragedy put Philippine politicians in bad light, it didn’t shock us. If anything, we were ready to be vigilant. Cynicism has poisoned our minds not to be trusting. I saw corruption, I see corruption. I saw people taking decisions personally and not objectively. I saw resistance to authority. I saw abuse of authority. I saw mediocrity. I saw incompetence. I saw the lack of faith. Growing up, I saw these. While these happened, there were brave women and men who opposed it. Yet some were gritting their teeth in silence. And I continue to see the same things.
I believe catastrophes happen to make us tougher. If it makes leaders weak, someone has to step up. And these someones should probably hold the reins next.