Sober appraisal

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Friday, January 24, 2014

MORE than two months after Yolanda hit areas in the Visayas, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez crossed paths the other day during the hearing of the congressional oversight committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

The two officials had engaged in a verbal tussle involving government’s response to the devastation wrought by the super typhoon. This time around, they shook hands and were civil to each other.

They say time heals all wounds. But the verbal wounds that the two officials inflicted on each other healed rather quickly.


Then again, Roxas and Romualdez are politicians who approach human relations differently. That hearing had a national audience, so they had to show their good side. That allowed for a sober appraisal of government response to Yolanda, unlike what happened in past committee hearings.

I think this has a parallel in social media, where molehills were often turned into mountains, to borrow a Roxas phrase, and where government critics mainly roamed, using the failings in the post-Yolanda response of the administration of President Noynoy Aquino to paint a bleak picture of national governance.

Postings of half-truths and lies have lessened considerably there.

This is probably because PNoy critics have realized that they weren’t succeeding in their hurling of vicious and slanderous attacks in the guise of legitimate criticism.

Indeed, the result of a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey in December can be a slap on their collective faces.

In that survey, conducted from December 11 to 16 last year, SWS found that PNoy got a “very good” net satisfaction rating of 54 plus from Yolanda victims, who were supposedly the most aggrieved by the supposed inadequacies in government’s response to the super typhoon.

“The December 2013 survey found higher satisfaction ratings for President Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III among victims of Yolanda compared to those who were not victimized by the super typhoon,” said the survey study.

Indeed, the ones who made the most noise as the coverage on the Yolanda-caused devastation unfurled were those who were not directly affected by the typhoon and the fence-sitters.

Even as the victims were silently picking up the pieces, outsiders hurled complaints after complaints, some of them legitimate, others products of ignorance and still others politically motivated. And all of them acted like they spoke for the victims.

Yet it turned out, per SWS survey, that among the Yolanda victims, 73 percent were satisfied with PNoy’s performance during the early part of the rescue and relief efforts while only 19 percent were dissatisfied. The attempt to bring down the President failed in the typhoon-hit areas because the people there knew what really happened on the ground.

Those who were far from the devastation, on the other hand had to sift through the truth, half-truths and outright lies from stories that went through traditional and social media. They therefore found it difficult to come up with an objective appraisal of government response.

Of course, some sectors would refuse to accept the result of the SWS survey by questioning its methodology and insinuating that survey firms are biased for the Aquino administration. Yet these same sectors have time and again in the past waved survey results that favored their biases and political agenda.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 25, 2014.


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