TRENTO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews/16 November) – A week after super typhoon Yolanda barreled through the Visayas, nothing has changed in the news that one hears or reads about the disaster that has brought unspeakable horror and misery to hundreds of thousands of people across the region.
Forget the reassuring words from President Benigno Aquino III, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and other top officials. The survivors are still left to fend for their own, and the dead remain cluttered on the streets or buried beneath the heaps of dirt and rubble. Hunger and disease stalk Tacloban City and elsewhere. The stench of decay hangs in the air in these ravaged lands.
Help from government is nowhere in sight. At best, it comes in the words of officials who seem to be more concerned with stretching the people’s patience or what’s left of it. Wittingly or unwittingly, national TV networks have played government’s game by acting as its sounding board. Fortunately, CNN came along and said the word that Philippine TV was either reluctant or afraid to say.
But CNN’s take on the situation was just a finishing blow on government’s flat-footed response. Everyone knows that US military personnel arrived in Leyte for humanitarian assistance ahead of substantial material aid from the Philippine government itself. And they came while Roxas et al spent more time on media interviews.
The problem is that government has refused to understand CNN’s message that in situations like this, time is of the essence. Put food into the survivors’ mouths while they can chew it. Pour milk into the mouths of crying babies while they’re still breathing, not when they’re dead and it’s the turn of their mothers to cry.
Many Filipino doctors, trauma therapists and other post-disaster management experts are eager to volunteer their services. Send them in along with their government counterparts – quick. Churches, the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups have prepared relief packs. Find the fastest way to send these goods and those from government warehouses to Leyte, Samar and other areas ravaged by Yolanda.
Along with these measures, crack down hard on the profiteers, for example, the gas dealers who have reportedly jacked up fuel products by around 100 percent. Stop looting and other lawless acts by sending in additional police and soldiers. Government does not need martial law to do this; invoking the police power of the state is enough.
This government is not wanting in talent it could not realize that the growing desperation now threatens to erupt into a total breakdown of social order. The looting incidents are just portents of worse things to come if the hunger and suffering of the survivors is further prolonged. Reports that these are led by an armed group suggest that government may face graver peace and order problems if it hesitates NOW to assert its authority.
It has always been the cardinal rule of social relations that when disorder sets in due to an incapable government, other groups would emerge to vie for control and informal authority. People would either look for a center of power or submit to it by choice or circumstance. How such authority comes about is of no consequence. Tacloban, with its devastated landscape and economy and a non-functioning local government, is ripe for that situation. Leave it in this state, and we may yet see a mini – perhaps “less violent” – version of Somalia.
Indeed, at this juncture time is spelled n-o-w. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])