Editorial: The culture of denial, leadership of the weak

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Friday, February 28, 2014

NOW that the attention of the citizens are somewhere else, maybe along the intellectually-degrading Vhong Navarro-Cedric Lee caper or whatever protestations of innocence some other senator would want us to hear, it can be told: More bodies are being found under the wreckage of super typhoon Yolanda. This news can now be sneaked in under the radar because most of us are no longer keeping count and betting that indeed, the police chief who was sacked was right when he said the dead could easily reach 10,000.

We still can recall how defensive the government became in claiming that the number of casualties cannot possibly reach 10,000, and from then on, news about the number of bodies found have been downplayed. It's been over a month since the death toll of typhoon Yolanda has been updated, the AFP report said, and it is no longer just ordinary citizens crying for help who are seeing the gory scene to disbelieving ears of government. It was no less than United Nations Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos who did.

Recounting the shock of discovering the dead during a visit last week in Tacloban, Amos was quoted in the AFP report as saying, "As the debris is cleared, they are finding more dead bodies. We experienced that for ourselves."


"There are many people trying to live in their original (ruined) homes. They put up a tarpaulin as a roof and put some wood on the side and that's not good enough. It won't stand up to a storm," she said.

Government has kept quiet, feeling safe maybe that the general public's attention is somewhere else. But bits and pieces of these incompetence are being exposed to us day by day.

During President Benigno C. Aquino III's visit to Cateel, Davao Orientl last week, he blew his top upon being told that half of the barangays in the towns devastated by typhoon Pablo, more than a year ago, still has not had their power restored.

Yesterday, no less that Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla expressed surprise over the Mindanao-wide blackout. As the transcript of what he said in a press conference held in Pasig reads: "We were all surprised. System-wide [outage] sa Mindanao, I could not remember the last time this happened."

Just about every Mindanaoan of legal age and some concern for motherland knows how vulnerable the Mindanao grid, how easy it is to cut off power from a quarter, half or even whole of Mindanao just by toppling a tower or two in the central part where all kinds of rebels frequent, especially that most vulnerable Agus-Kibawe line. Now the guy who is supposed to be on the very top of the power situation in the whole Philippines I surprised that a system-wide blackout can happen.

In a country that is prone to all types of disasters, from super typhoons to system-wide blackouts, we shouldn't allow those in charge to just wash their hands off by saying they didn't know any better, while gagging all those who know. If we continue to tolerate this, then let us expect more devastating events to hit us. We cannot allow a government be run by people who do not know what is happening on the ground. The Philippines as it is, especially Mindanao, is already drowning in the avaricious excesses of the corrupt (multi-million agricultural projects and fake recipients of development program funds included) and half-a-century old infrastructure and facilities that rarely get upgraded, for us to allow authorities who do not even know how our towns are faring is ensuring another lifetime of misery.

What's that slogan that catapulted the president's mother to the presidency? "Sobra na, tama na, palitan na!" How come we are more forgiving now?

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 01, 2014.


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