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QC’s ‘jet ski’ judge back in action

Two sons join ‘Ondoy’ hero in rescue mission
/ 10:05 PM August 07, 2012

JUDGE Ralph Lee wears his rescue motto on his cap. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Nearly three years after he landed in the news for using his jet ski to rescue around 100 “Ondoy” flood victims who were stranded on the roofs of their houses, Quezon City Judge Ralph Lee was at it again.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, he left the comfort of his home in Fairview, Quezon City, on the same jet ski he used in 2009 to go on another rescue mission.

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This time, his destination was the nearby Palmera Homes Phase 5 in Sta. Monica, Novaliches, where hundreds of residents had been reported to be marooned on top of their houses which were submerged in raging floodwaters.

The subdivision is near the Tullahan River which often overflows its banks during heavy and prolonged rainfall.

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“This is like Ondoy all over again, the floods are everywhere,” Lee, the judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 83, told the Inquirer.

For most of the day, Lee could not be reached on his cell phone as he was busy plucking strangers from floodwaters and bringing them to   higher ground.

He was not alone, however. With him on this rescue mission were his two sons and six other young men.

Over 100 saved

Lee said they started at 10 a.m. and at press time, he and his team had saved more than 100 people.

“But there are hundreds more waiting to be rescued in that community. We need to go back tonight because I promised them that we will return should the bad weather persist,” he added.

According to him, because of the strong current, other rescuers have been unable to reach that part of the subdivision where he and his team focused their efforts.

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His jet ski—which saw him through the horrors spawned by Ondoy’s heavy rains nearly three years ago—again suffered a beating as the strong current slammed it repeatedly against houses.

But miraculously, the watercraft suffered no scratches or dents, Lee said.

“In this bad weather, God is really with us,” the judge said as he urged other civilians with watercraft and other equipment to rescue their less fortunate neighbors.

In the afternoon, he and his team took a brief break to eat and recharge before resuming their mission.

As they are short on equipment and manpower, Lee said they were planning to buy a very long stretch of sturdy rope, around a kilometer long, which they could use to pull flood victims to safety.

For 12 hours on Sept. 26, 2009, Lee and his son, Ram, used his jet ski and over a dozen life vests to pick up people trapped in their homes at Sta. Monica, Novaliches amid swirling floodwaters due to Ondoy.

For his feat of courage, the judge received 20 citations, including the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year award for Ondoy heroes, as well as commendations from various groups.

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