Almost a month after typhoon Yolanda hit several provinces, victim-survivors from Samar and Leyte towns, cross-registrants from University of the Philippines campuses in Tacloban and Palo, and their relatives and supporters will gather this afternoon in an ecumenical activity at the Sunken Garden in UP Diliman to “forge their solidarity in demanding accountability from the Aquino administration for the incompetence and criminal neglect in addressing the immediate and long-term needs of the affected families and communities.”
Pastora Irma Balaba, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and coordinator of Tabang-Eastern Visayas, a network of people’s organizations undertaking relief and rehabilitation work in the affected communities in Eastern Visayas said that “the Aquino government’s response before, during and after the typhoon exemplifies its callousness to the needs of the poverty-stricken communities.”
“A month after Yolanda, countless bodies have yet to be retrieved while scores of families continue to look for their loved ones, amid the hunger, homelessness, dislocation and neglect of the government. Despite harsh lessons from the impacts of past typhoons Sendong and Pablo, billions of calamity funds being allocated from public funds, and days and nights of waiting for government rescue and relief in Eastern Visayas, we ask: where is the government?” Balaba said. She and her daughter were among those who sought temporary shelter in Manila, after a harrowing experience when the storm surge destroyed their home in Tacloban City.
“Sa halos isang buwan pagkatapos ng sakuna, wala kaming nakikitang kaseryosohan sa gobyernong Aquino – mula sa rescue, relief hanggang sa rehabilitasyon ng mamamayang nasalanta. Bukod sa pamumulitika at paninisi sa kung sinu-sino, walang konkretong plano ang gobyerno na kumprehensibo at tunay na magtitindig muli ng kabuhayan at dignidad ng bawat isang biktima ng Yolanda (A month after Yolanda ravaged our province, we do not see any genuine and serious move of the Aquino government to aid the affected communities – from rescue, relief to rehabilitation operations. Aside from politicking and blaming others, this government has made no comprehensive and genuinely pro-people plan to uplift the lives and dignity of the victims of Yolanda),“ said Arnold Repique, spokesperson of Tindog Katawhan, a network of relatives, supporters and victims of typhoon Yolanda in the National Capital Region.
Repique’s wife is a survivor from Barugo, Leyte, and she now lives with him in an urban poor community in San Juan City.
Last week, Tindog Katawhan delivered a letter addressed to Pres. Benigno Aquino outlining the five immediate demands and needs of the victims of the typhoon.
Meanwhile, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay criticized the appointment of Gen. Panfilo Lacson as the “rehabilitation czar,” saying that “he has neither the competence nor the credibility to oversee a rights-based and people-centered rehabilitation program for the typhoon victims.”
“The appointment of another favoured ally of BS Aquino who is most known for human rights violations is adding insult to injury. This shows the real intention of BS Aquino – to silence any emerging discontent of hungry and neglected victims of super typhoon Yolanda,” she said.
Clemente Bautista, coordinator of Brigada Kalikasan, a disaster response network of environment and climate action groups, said that “the survivors of ‘Yolanda’ should hold the Aquino government accountable as it did nothing in its past three years in power to significantly advance climate change and disaster policies, and to stem the environmental destruction that has further eroded our natural defences from hazards as well.”
“The victims have real pressing needs for immediate rehabilitation and recovery efforts, and it is unacceptable that this situation is being used to justify discretionary and unaccountable lump sum ‘disaster pork’ funds that are unresponsive in nature and are very prone to the Aquino government’s systemic corruption,” Bautista added.
Fr. Ben Alforque of Dambana church people’s network for relief support for typhoon victims said that the solidarity of the victim-survivors and the people here and abroad is “proof of the timeless viability and the profound effectiveness of united people’s action.”
“Today, we rise with the victim-survivors, their loved ones, their communities, our communities. Only through our united action – when we stand as one people – in asserting rights and human dignity can we truly overcome especially the human-induced disasters that come our way,” he stressed.
The ecumenical liturgical activity is being organised by Tindog Network, Tindog UP Diliman, Kalikasan PNE, DAMBANA and Karapatan. The gathering will also serve as a donation drive for the benefit of Yolanda victim survivors who have made their exodus to Metro Manila. The organisers said candles will likewise be lit “in memory of those who died and as a sign of people’s vigilance on the dismal relief and rehabilitation program of the Aquino administration.”