TACLOBAN City – Super-typhoon Yolanda survivors grouped under the alliance People Surge blasted the Aquino government for its “persisting injustices” toward typhoon victims. People Surge rejected outright the statement of Presidential spokesman Herminio “Sonny” Coloma that the Aquino administration supposedly has been doing its best to solve its deficiencies in its duty to assist Yolanda survivors. Such a lie is “even more atrocious,” according to Dr. Elfleda K. Bautista, chairperson of People Surge. She recalled Aquino’s “arrogance and callousness” over ordinary people before and after Yolanda.
Before Yolanda made landfall last year, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III boasted about his administration’s disaster preparedness. Even if succeeding events proved him wrong, Aquino repeated his claim nearly eight months later, in his State of the Nation Address, said Dr. Bautista. And yet, from the first week after Yolanda’s landfall up to that time and today, the storm survivors’ alliance and various groups such as the Women’s International Solidarity Mission keep encountering signs of government’s “criminal negligence.”
In a press conference with women delegates of an international solidarity mission in Leyte last Tuesday, Nov 4, Bautista said a leader like Aquino should be ousted. People Surge counts at least “six persisting injustices” by this government toward disaster survivors. These can be summarized as follows:
1. Deceptive rehabilitation
While government reports some level of “achievements” in providing for the storm survivors, the latter actually merely gets precarious shelter and livelihood, while Aquino’s big business allies get profitable government contracts in the name of “rehabilitation.” People Surge cited as examples infrastructure projects, micro-financing in agriculture, “arbitrary” imposition of No-Build Zone policy along coastal and riverside communities.
2. Plunder and corruption
People Surge cited various disaster funds that do not serve the peoples’ needs, only the politicians and business allies of the Aquino government. These funds include the P20-billion ($444 million) rehabilitation supplemental budget in 2014, the P23.8-billion ($528 million) Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) allocations on disaster management, the proposed P20.5-billion ($455 million) ‘disaster pork barrel’ in the 2015 budget, and the P171-billion ($3.8 billion) proposed ‘Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan’;
People Surge branded the Aquino government as a traitor, for using Yolanda as ground for allowing US military’s war games, surveillance and other forms of disaster militarism.
The alliance also scored Aquino’s hand in environmental and climate injustices driven by advanced capitalist countries and multinational and transnational corporations;
4. Divide and conquer
To get a chance at securing “empty promises of relief, conditional cash transfers, and other forms of aid,” survivors are given various preconditions and some of it bar them from joining legitimate mass actions to redress their grievances. (For example, people are discouraged from joining People Surge or protests if they want to receive conditional cash transfers, housing aid, among others);
5. State violence
If deception, divide and conquer and the threat of withholding even small relief failed to bar people from criticizing the government’s negligence and plunder, there is state violence.
People Surge condemned the militarization and repression of communities exposing the “incompetent disaster risk management” of the Aquino government through their continuing demands for justice, practices of self-reliance and mutual aid (bayanihan). Two People Surge members — Rodolfo Basada and Jefferson Custodio – have been murdered;
6. Criminally negligent
People Surge blames the Aquino government’s flawed and scant relief and rescue operations for the estimated 18,000 deaths, billions of pesos in damages to agriculture and infrastructure, and the breaking down of basic social services.
“We will never forget – and certainly never forgive – how the death toll is feared to have reached around 18,000 because the Aquino administration is simply insincere in responding to the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall in history,” Dr. Bautista said as People Surge gears up to welcome disaster survivors in similar plight from Mindanao. (bulatlat.com)