MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Wednesday bristled at criticisms that he had been “missing” for days as Tropical Storm “Maring” spawned heavy rain that battered Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.
On the contrary, the President said he had been “nagging” Cabinet officials since Sunday when he noticed flooding on Osmeña Highway (formerly South Superhighway) after coming from a family get-together.
A cheerful Aquino showed up at the evacuation centers, but he turned serious when asked by a television reporter to respond to the criticisms, especially on social media, regarding his silence and lack of visibility in the two days that heavy rain lashed and unleashed heavy flooding.
He recalled calling Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and Marikina Mayor Del de Guzman to get updates on measures against the rising flood on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding,” he told reporters at Mandaluyong Elementary School. “If the government failed to deliver, I’d be blamed entirely. But if it did well, perhaps the credit should also include me.”
Absence in meetings
His glaring absence had been observed in the emergency meetings of the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council presided by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and his Cabinet on Monday and Tuesday.
Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said: “The President has been closely monitoring the situation and the various Cabinet secretaries are giving him regular updates, even as the President has instructed all appropriate agencies to mobilize government resources.”
Minutes later, Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, released to the press Roxas’ statement in a bid to assure those wondering about the President’s whereabouts.
The President canceled a trip to Ilocos Sur province to inaugurate a bridge in the mountainous town of Cervantes last week because of his allergy to pollen. On Wednesday, he said he was getting better.
“I’m OK, more or less. I have been advised by Dr. Enrique Ona to rest. That’s why last Sunday, I bothered only a few Cabinet officials when the rain started,” he said.
On Wednesday, he motored to Biñan City and San Pedro town in Laguna province, and to Mandaluyong City to give away relief goods to flood victims staying in public schools and a covered gymnasium. It was his first public appearance since monsoon rains hit the capital on Saturday.
In his visit to San Pedro, Aquino again mentioned the government’s plan to build a large dike on Laguna de Bay that, he said, would slow down the rise of floodwaters.