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Why the mayor cried

/ 12:42 AM December 12, 2013

When a woman cries, she’s either very happy or very sad.

When a man cries, he’s very happy, very sad or very angry.

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When Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez cried before a congressional committee in the Senate on Monday, his emotions were a mixture of intense sadness and anger.

He was sad over the deaths of thousands of his constituents and angry over the alleged failure of the national government to come to the aid of the supertyphoon-stricken city.

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I sympathize and empathize with Romualdez over the untimely demise of thousands of his constituents.

This columnist cried not once but several times over the sad fate of Tacloban City and its people that I witnessed in my two visits to the city in the wake of the destruction caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

But the mayor’s allegation that “until today” (the day he faced the joint congressional committee), the national government had not sent police and military reinforcements to the city was stretching the truth too far.

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Romualdez blamed national government officials, including President Noy, for their failure to send police and military reinforcements “until today,” or on Monday, the day when he faced the joint congressional committee.

Had the mayor said that the national government failed to immediately send aid to the city after Yolanda, his statement would have been believable.

I was in Tacloban City on Nov. 11, three days after Yolanda, and indeed there was no government presence in the city except at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport which was crawling with uniformed soldiers.

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There was total chaos in the city, based on reports at the airport.

A 17-member medical mission I headed was attending to thousands of survivors waiting for planes to fly them out.

I got first-hand accounts of what was going on in Tacloban City immediately after Yolanda from patients who were treated by the medical mission.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper got a glimpse of the situation in Tacloban City from patients who came to makeshift hospitals and clinics.

These were also manned by three military doctors and their aides.

Cooper saw the chaos at the airport and had interviewed Dr. Katrina Gonzales-Catabay of St. Luke’s Medical Center, one of the members of the medical mission.

When Cooper asked Catabay how she would describe the situation in the makeshift hospital that was fully packed with patients, the doctor said, “Oh, a little bit chaotic,” with irony in her voice.

What was happening at the hospital was a microcosm of what was happening in the city.

The interview took place on Nov. 13, a few hours before my medical mission was to board a Philippine Airlines plane back to Manila.

But when I returned to Tacloban City with a bigger medical mission for three days, from Nov. 25-27, there were already thousands of uniformed soldiers and policemen in the city and in other areas in Leyte and Samar battered by Yolanda.

So the mayor’s claim that there were no police and military reinforcements in his city up to that time when he appeared before the joint congressional committee, which was Dec. 9, was not true.

After the hearing, Romualdez told reporters the city government had not received a “single cent” in foreign aid.

That’s not true as well.

We’ve all seen foreign as well as local aid pouring into the devastated areas, especially Tacloban City.

Perhaps Mayor Alfred Romualdez was still traumatized when he appeared before the committee, which is understandable.

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TAGS: Alfred Romualdez, Anderson Cooper, Foreign aid, Mayor Romualdez, Supertyphoon Yolanda, Tacloban, Tacloban City
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