Roxas vs Romualdez: Word war turns into battle of videos
MANILA, Philippines—The word war between Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez has now become a battle of videos.
Apparently stung by the spread of an 18-second video showing him telling Romualdez, “Bahala kayo sa buhay n’yo (that’s it, you can do what you want),” Roxas on Wednesday denounced as “malicious” the release of a short recording of the Nov. 14 meeting between him, the Tacloban mayor and other local and national officials in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
“It’s obvious that the objective of this malicious video was to cover up the negligence of Mayor Romualdez as a public official and to pass the blame to the national government,” Roxas told a news briefing at Camp Crame.
He said the video, which was allegedly uploaded on the popular video-sharing website YouTube by former San Juan congressman Jose Mari Gonzales, the father of Romualdez’s wife, Cristina, was “spliced and alerted” to support the mayor’s accusations against him.
“The video was spliced to remove the important part of the conversation and the context (of my statement),” Roxas said.
In the 18-second video, Roxas is heard telling Romualdez: “You have to understand. You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino. If it’s not legalized, then OK you are in charge and we’ll help you, then that’s it … (unintelligible) bahala na kayo sa buhay ’nyo.”
The interior secretary, who was wearing a blue shirt and seated across the mayor, then let out a laugh.
However, in a 43-minute video uploaded on Tuesday night by columnist Cito Beltran, Roxas could be heard telling the Tacloban mayor: “You have to understand we are talking very straight here. You are a Romualdez, the President is an Aquino. So we are very careful … in just taking over because we don’t (want) anything to be misconstrued.”
Roxas said he also had a 51-minute audio recording of that consultation meeting with Romualdez and the other officials which would belie Romualdez’s claim that Roxas had threatened him to be careful because he was a Romualdez.
The interior secretary explained that it was not the first time that he had asked a local chief executive for a letter asking the national government to come in and take over.
Roxas said Mayor Beng Climaco of Zamboanga City signed a similar letter when Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels stormed five coastal villages in the city last October.
“That’s why I don’t understand why Mayor Romualdez is making an issue of this … It’s time for you to stand up and lead the rehabilitation of your city,” Roxas said.
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said Wednesday the word war between Roxas and Romualdez could be a result of a “miscommunication” brought on by the tension as well as the pressure to respond to such massive destruction.
“We were dealing with a confluence of factors,” she said.
Explaining why the Tacloban mayor was asked for a letter, Soliman said the national crisis management manual requires that a local chief executive execute a document when he or she decides that the national government should take over in handling a crisis or disaster situation.
This standard operating procedure is mainly for accountability purposes, she said.
“We might be asked why we spent so much. There were so much assets sent to Tacloban. We have to account for all of those. There has to be a basis. I think that was where Secretary Mar was coming from. But I also understand Mayor Romualdez,” Soliman said.
She said local officials in Tacloban and national leaders were working together and coordinating in the relief work in the aftermath of Yolanda.
Soliman said the mayor’s wife, Cristina, who is a city councilor, herself helped in the initial distribution of relief packs the day after the typhoon, and city administrator Tecson Lim was present in all the coordination meetings with national officials.
Soliman said it was a “no brainer” that national government would immediately provide assistance to the storm-ravaged areas, especially since there were places like Tacloban City where the first responders themselves were victims.—With Nikko Dizon and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas
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