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Earthquake politics

/ 08:35 AM October 24, 2013

Stung by media reports that government has done very little to alleviate the miserable condition of earthquake victims in Bohol, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman asked the media to give the government some credit because the line agencies are doing their work.

For the past five days, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has poured out P21 million worth of relief goods to Bohol especially in areas heavily damaged by the killer quake. More than 87,000 food packs had been delivered to victims in Alburquerque, Alicia, Antequera, Balilihan, Batuan, Buenavista, Calape, Carmen, Catigbian, Clarin, Cortes, Dagohoy, Danao, Dauis, Inabanga, Lila, Loay, Loboc, Loon, Maribojoc, Panglao, Sagbayan, San Isidro, San Miguel, Sevilla, and Tubigon towns, including the capital city Tagbilaran.

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Each food pack contains 3 kilos of rice and eight assorted canned goods. The foodstuff is enough for two days for a family of five or eight. Social workers and volunteers are working 24/7 because the DSWD boss lady ordered the release of 10,000 food packs daily.

The agency is being backed up by the Bohol provincial government which provides workers and volunteers with trucks among other logistical support.

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The Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Air Force have likewise placed vessels and choppers at the disposal of the agency in bringing assistance to far-flung towns. Soldiers also helped pack and distribute relief goods to isolated areas.

All in all, DSWD has disbursed more than P30 million worth of relief aid to Bohol in coordination with other agencies and the AFP but nobody from the mainstream media seems to notice.

I can understand why Soliman is gently taking the media to task because normally, mainstream media would accompany government relief efforts to place news stories in context, but the work of line agencies do not get the media attention that it deserves or that Malacañang expects. In the process, people are beginning to think the Aquino administration is oblivious to the suffering in Bohol. This is precisely the reason President Benigno Aquino III was scheduled to revisit the province yesterday (Wednesday).

I happened to be in Manila when it all happened and it took only a few minutes for the different media outfits to come up with round-the-clock coverage of the destruction wrought by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake.

In a matter of hours, footages of collapsed churches, roads and bridges were seen on TV.  As aid began to pour in, video of private and government groups bringing aid were seen. These past two days, there were a lot of clips showing people dashing for food packs, lining up the streets begging for food, living in makeshift houses and tents.

The footages gave the impression that aid was not enough, distribution was disorderly, and there was general confusion which exacerbated human suffering. If there were footages of government social workers and soldiers packing and distributing food packs, the video clips were scanty.

What I noticed is that networks are playing up their respective aid programs for calamity victims through the station’s regular newscast. There was steady update of earthquake-related news, followed by a segment of the station’s relief aid distribution. The relief packs carried the station’s logo.

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Some people are inclined to think this is all part of the networks’ campaign to be on top of the ratings.  Ga-epal sab ang mga estasyon (The stations, too,  want to catch attention), my friend commented.

First of all, the efforts of media networks in bringing relief goods to victims of calamities fill the gap in the delivery system. The government cannot do it alone. This is public-private partnership in action and media outfits should be lauded for their humanitarian efforts.

Secondly, politicians don’t mess with media institutions bringing relief aid to towns. What happened in Maribojoc town where the mayor drove out Red Cross workers is a classic example. Mayor Leoncio Evasco, Jr. seems to rule the town with a mailed fist but his tough guy stance did not work with Red Cross volunteers.

Mayor Evasco wanted the private organization to endorse relief goods to the local government unit, but the workers refused to do his bidding. In the end, he scolded them and drove them out of town. What a shameful act. Those volunteers did not deserve the shabby treatment. I wonder if the mayor would do this to relief efforts of a media institution.

People are turned off by politicians riding the tragedy to suit their narrow interests. One of them is Vice President Jejomar Binay who reportedly gave relief goods with his name splashed over the plastic bags.

There is wide displeasure over e-pals which is why I doubt if the Vice President was behind the said incident. It is possible that a political supporter did it as his way of making e-pal to the Veep.

At the end of the day the important thing is to make the lives of calamity victims in Bohol a little less miserable.

Whether the motive is to gain more audience and be on top of the ratings, or be perceived as generous and kind-hearted in the eyes of voters, or to be able to achieve three minutes of fame, that is no longer a matter of consequence.

What is important is to serve as a bridge to a suffering people. If one food pack spells a day’s survival for five people, that is all that really matters.

As for our intentions, only God is the sole judge.

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TAGS: Cebu, Dinky Soliman, Earthquake, Election, Politics
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