“Forget the incumbent president. Where were the candidates during and after the typhoon?”
Category 5 super typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) has been devastating parts of Visayas and Mindanao. Odette packed winds of up to 260 kilometers per hour with gusts over 300 kilometers per hour. It is said to be as strong as Yolanda (Haian). The Philippine Red Cross warned that millions of Filipinos living along the typhoon’s path were at risk.
Odette made landfall on Siargao Island before passing over Cebu. According to reports, other severely affected areas are Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Bohol, Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga del Norte.
As expected, social media has been replete with posts of people directly affected by Odette. Many were providing updates about the situation in their places but there were also a lot of those directly asking for assistance because of the effects of torrential rains and very strong winds.
There have been communication and power outages as more than 30 transmission lines in Visayas and Mindanao were down. The Agay-ayan River in Misamis Oriental overflowed and resulted in flooding of streets and homes with muddy brown water.
As of the morning of December 16, around 198,000 people were evacuated from their homes to government shelters. Of this number, 47,000 were from the Eastern Visayas region, more than 2,600 from Surigao, and over 2,000 families from Dinagat Island. As of this writing, Odette remains in the country so damage to lives and property has yet to be estimated.
However, one would think that the national government, led by (the still) President Rodrigo Duterte would be quite visible in assuring people that they are in control and that help will come to those who are in need. But like before, Malacanang has been silent and Duterte has yet to make an appearance or pronouncement. Some people quipped that they have forgotten that the country still has a president. Others, however, are again asking #NasaanAngPangulo like in previous calamities.
But what is most telling this time is how presidential candidates have been responding to this super typhoon. This is important because this can serve as a sneak preview of how they are going to act during calamities IF they get to be elected. This can help voters intelligently decide on whose name to write on their ballots come May 2022.
The first I saw responding to Odette was Vice-President Leni Robredo who, while going live on social media, reminded people on the typhoon’s path to take precautions and follow the authorities when Odette hits their place. She also said that her office was already in touch and coordinating with the various local government units (LGUs) for needed assistance. She expressed the readiness of her office to immediately respond.
Throughout the night of the 15th, Robredo was visible coordinating, monitoring, and responding to social media posts of those needing help. She converted her Quezon City volunteers’ headquarters as the hub to receive donated relief goods. On the 17th, Robredo flew to Bohol to provide aid and personally monitor relief operations for those affected by Odette in the province.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao posted a call on social media addressed to his fellow candidates to set aside politics first and come together to help our people in the face of the devastation brought about by the super typhoon. The public saw how VP Leni Robredo responded to Pacquiao’s call. By then, the VP was already busy with helping out so it was easy for her to agree to coordinate their efforts in the provision of assistance. This is a very good example of political “adversaries” coming together for the people’s good.
Meanwhile, Isko Moreno reminded people to be prepared for Odette, to stay home, and monitor reports from PAGASA.
As of this writing, Panfilo Lacson has yet to say anything about this calamity.
Marcos Jr. for his part, also reminded people to prepare for the typhoon and to coordinate with their LGU. However, on the evening of December 16, @marcosdaily_ph posted pictures of the dictator’s son partying with friends in his campaign headquarters. The post immediately caught the attention of many who readily criticized the candidate for his behavior while millions of Filipinos were fearing for their lives because of Odette.
On Facebook, Nereo Lujan was quick to post the similarity between the dictator and his son. Lujan pointed out that Marcos Jr. did as his parents did during the onslaught of typhoon Yoling in November 1970. From the paper of Prof. James Warren, Lujan said that when the weather was worsening in Manila, FM and Imelda brought their guest, Burmese General Ne Win, to Baguio. There, they played golf on the Mansion House course oblivious and uncaring of the havoc brought about by Yoling to Manila and nearby areas. The Marcoses were criticized then as their son is criticized now.
Indeed, these candidates’ showing during this calamity is a good gauge of how they will handle similar emergencies and crises during their term if they get elected. Hopefully, people are keenly observing them. We no longer want to ask for the president’s whereabouts as we do now, during times like this.
Prior to super typhoon Odette, when VP Leni Robredo was asked how she would handle disasters if elected president, she said that she will be very visible and hands-on before, during, and after the calamity strikes. She is showing us how she will be as President Robredo.
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