Speaking to CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour last November 12, President Benigno Aquino III repeatedly reiterated that super typhoon Yolanda (international code name ‘Haiyan’) wrecked so much havoc especially in the Eastern Visayas region because the “local (government) response failed.”
He told Amanpour that “two or three” local government units (LGUs) were “simply overwhelmed” by Yolanda. Watch Amanpour’s entire interview here. Even without being mentioned by name, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez is certainly one of those Aquino is referring to.
A day before his interview with Amanpour, Aquino was said to have walked out of a briefing with Tacloban City officials after he got irked by the said LGU’s unpreparedness (Malacanang later clarified that he merely went to the bathroom).
With Aquino seemingly bent on putting all the blame on him, Romualdez played defense. In an interview with GMA News, the mayor complained about what he described as insufficient aid from the national government.
“Wala namang giyera, bakit hindi magpadala ng tatlong batalyon dito para hakutin na natin lahat ng patay?” Romualdez said. He also explained that relief goods are not being transported to devastated communities because of the lack of usable vehicles.
In relation to this, a point-by-point report (the author cannot be determined as of this time) on what is happening is now going viral on the Internet. In a nutshell, the post explicates that Romualdez sought as much help as possible from the national government both before and after Yolanda rammed the city. And in all those instances, Romualdez received decidedly inadequate assistance.
Here are some of the items listed. Check CorrectPhilippines.org for the entire post:
1. After Typhoon Yolanda struck, the Mayor of Tacloban requested the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) to make a “RESPONSE OVERKILL” on the rescue and relief operations. Unfortunately, the response from the National Government was very cold and half hearted.
2. On Day 2 of Typhoon Yolanda aftermath, the Mayor requested the NDRRMC to deploy 2 Marine Battalions to help immediately establish peace and order and rescue/relief operations. Unfortunately, this plea for help was unheeded by the National Government.
5. The Mayor requested the National Government to put more vehicles and personnel for cadaver retrieval but up to now only 4 trucks from the National Government are doing this. Only 8 trucks from the National Government are doing relief work. Tacloban is now reeking from the smell of death and relief operations are still moving at a snail’s pace.
7. To add insult to injury, the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (Mar Roxas) wants the Mayor of Tacloban (Alfred Romualdez) to write a formal letter to Philippine President Noynoy Aquino supposedly to inform him that he could no longer function as Mayor, thereby surrendering authority to the DILG Secretary (Mar Roxas).
To say that there’s a personal animosity between Aquino and Romualdez would be an understatement. For starters, the mayor of Tacloban is a nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. Even until now, Aquino and the Romuladezes are on clashing sides of the political spectrum. The mayor’s cousin, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Romualdez, is currently the president of Lakas-CMD, the party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The administration made a vigorous bid to unseat Romualdez during last May’s polls. In fact, Kris Aquino, the president’s youngest sister and television superstar, personally campaigned for Florencio ‘Bem’ Noel, the president’s bet. “If Bem wins (for mayor), I will give whatever Tacloban needs in just one call,” Kris quoted the president as telling her during a campaign rally.
Despite all these, plus the president’s sharp criticism of Romualdez’ tenure as the city chief, he won re-election handily. In hindsight, Kris is perhaps right. Aquino would probably be more decisive in dealing with the disaster in Tacloban if the city is being led by his anointed candidate.
(PS: Is it possible to set aside political differences when it comes to disaster response? In dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year, United States President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed remarkable ability to work side-by-side for the greater good. Christie, a top supporter of Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney, repeatedly noted how he and the president remained in touch throughout the calamity. Read our post about it here.)