Sunday, Nov. 8, will mark the 2nd anniversary of the day Typhoon “Yolanda” wrought unimaginable devastation to the central Philippines.
That tragedy brought out the best in Filipinos. Everybody pitched in to help in big or little ways. Those who could not contribute material goods gave, instead, their time—packing donations, driving survivors around Manila to find their relatives here, rebuilding with their own hands, telling remarkable stories, and advising others of the right channels through which to course their help.
Unfortunately, in the months following the disaster and after the initial rush of bayanihan ebbed, some ugly aspects of human nature began to show.
Politics was one. There were reports that access to relief and to rehabilitation funds became dependent on whether local leaders were allied with the right party.
More criminally, there was misplaced frugality. No less than the Commission on Audit found that the Office of Civil Defense has not used donations for calamity victims—and this is not only for Yolanda victims. The government has been routinely, habitually underspending funds meant to assist victims of natural and man-made disasters.
For example, out of the P466 million in donations, the OCD has managed to spend only P81 million to help disaster victims, with a staggering 83 percent of the money parked at the Development Bank of the Philippines, earning millions in interest income.
These victims don’t need to see how much money has grown in the bank. They need to build their houses, their school buildings, resume their livelihood even as they move on from the memory of losing loved ones or hard-earned possessions.
Sure, this practice of the OCD, as the CoA noted, began in 2008, way before this current President assumed power. It would be easy for his camp then to pass on the blame on his predecessor again as is customary.
A question, though: If they paint the previous administration as so evil, how come they did nothing to reverse its ways and in fact continued, and at greater degrees of negligence?
It will be a solemn two-year mark for the families of those who perished in the typhoon. Let’s hope nobody dares greet them a “happy” one. Given the things that have been committed and neglected in the past two years, “happy” has no place in our vocabulary.