Yolanda survivors set a week of protest vs Aquino-led ‘Gang of 5’

Today, the survivors of Yolanda’s wrath are also finding it difficult to get back on their feet, not only because they lack appropriate services from the government — on the contrary they are being “evicted” and forced to accept loans or “cosmetic” solutions of short-term jobs – they also have to contend with increased military deployment.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A week leading to the fifth month since supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) hit the Philippines, members of a region-wide alliance of its survivors, the People Surge, announced a series of protests in Metro Manila and in Eastern Visayas against what they call as the “Gang of Five.” People Surge referred to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas, Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman, Energy Sec. Carlos Petilla, and former Senator and so-called rehab czar Panfilo Lacson.

Yolanda survivors' alliance People Surge, Chruchpeople and supporters from various organizations decry the 'Gang of Five'
Yolanda survivors’ alliance People Surge, Chruchpeople and supporters from various organizations decry the ‘Gang of Five’

Parodying a show of gratitude, the storm survivors are set to “thank” each of the “Gang of Five” through picket-protests in front of their particular headquarters starting April 2, culminating in a big rally toward Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang on April 8, exactly the fifth month since Yolanda hit the country.

Taking to task the Gang of Five, one by one

Decrying their “fifth month of agony,” the typhoon survivors “thanked” on April 1st Fools Day in a press conference President Aquino and his administration’s “prompt, efficient and continued” delivery of services to the Yolanda survivors. The survivors’ report had detailed how the Aquino government’s response has, in fact, been the opposite of prompt and efficient.

The storm survivors have repeatedly conducted protests in front of the office of Social Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman.

“The Social Welfare Secretary has been ‘exposed’ several times,” People Surge said, citing as one of the most recent examples last March 28 when, with various sectors, they stormed the office of the DSWD to return the rotten and wormy relief goods Soliman’s office has distributed to storm survivors.

On April 2, Wednesday, People Surge and supporters from various organizations based in Metro Manila trooped to the office of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. After Aquino and Soliman, Roxas is dubbed as another member of the Gang of Five who failed the Yolanda survivors.

In a protest in front of DILG office, members of People Surge deplore the actions of Sec. Mar Roxas and warn the public against his presidential ambition. (Photo by M. Salamat / bulatlat.com)
In a protest in front of DILG office, members of People Surge deplore the actions of Sec. Mar Roxas and warn the public against his presidential ambition. (Photo by M. Salamat / bulatlat.com)

Roxas is seen as being groomed to be the Liberal Party’s presidential bet in 2016. But the Yolanda survivors asked: “Do you expect the Yolanda survivors to believe him and vote for him after his politicized response during the crucial period of rescue and relief distribution?” Roxas’ now famous line, “You’re a Romualdez and he’s an Aquino,” delivered at a meeting with local government executives, demonstrates what the People Surge denounces as “color-coded” disaster response by the government. In this kind of response, local allies of politicians in higher positions are more swiftly cornering the bulk, if not all, of available aid and relief.

Survivors of Yolanda said Sec. Roxas failed to deliver prompt social services to storm victims; he responded to the calamity in a “politicized manner,” and he plays a big part in implementing the anti-people, pro-big business No-Build Zone policy. This policy evicts, in effect, the residents from their homes and livelihood, the People Surge said.

On April 2 also, at the Baclaran Church, church people, artists and professionals held a day of sacrifice, a whole day of hunger strike, in support for the Yolanda survivors. In the evening, a concert arranged by Tulong Kabataan was staged at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, Manila. Various musicians and youth artists advocating justice and hope for the Yolanda survivors participated.

Lack of affordable electricity and other utilities

On April 3 Thursday, it is the turn of Energy Sec. Carlos Petilla to receive the storm survivors’ “thanks.”

They said that in the storm-affected areas in the Visayas and Mindanao where electricity has finally been restored, the survivors now have to contend with steep power hikes. Worse, as Joel Abaño of People Surge said, residents asserting their rights to reoccupy their homes in areas declared as “No-Build zone” are being denied connection to electricity and water services. This effectively drives them away from their homes and livelihood, Abaño said.

Abaño told Bulatlat.com that of the thousands of households that used to be his neighbour in the coastal side of Tacloban City, only some 200 have braved to rebuild their houses in defiance of the “No-Build Zone” Policy. But they are being denied services of utility companies.

Most of Eastern Visayas bear the brunt of incompetence of the Aquino administration in the delivery of peoples’ basic needs, including power, said the People Surge at a press conference this Tuesday Apr 1. The group asked Petilla to stay true to his word, to make good on his promise to resign after his many repeated failures.

Betrayal in reconstruction

On April 4, People Surge is set to protest at former senator Panfilo LAcson’s rehab czar’s office in Nickel Asia Corp. Tower in Taguig City. Lacson is in charge of implementing the Eastern Visayas Rehabilitation plan called the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) or the PR-spun “Build Back Better.”

It consists of policies which the survivors said are nothing but betrayal of the peoples’ needs for rebuilding and rehabilitation. The plan is composed of the No-Build Zone Policy and micro-financing in agricultrure. It gives profitable business opportunities to big businesses via infrastructure projects and lending.

Based on the studies of People Surge, “Build Back Better” is patterned after other programs in calamity-stricken countries such as Haiti, that resulted in the failure to deliver prompt, appropriate and genuine services to the survivors. People Surge said those flawed “rehabilitation programs” yielded the same corruption-riddled bunkhouses and even worsened poverty in Haiti.

As the “rehabilitation program” is infrastructure-driven, the survivors said it is no wonder then why the Eastern Visayas region has been divided among big influential families for their huge business ventures.

Aquino branded as Waray pulos (inutile or useless)

Of the whole “Gang of Five,” the group said, Aquino is the epitome of “Waray Pulos.” Sr Edita Eslopor said Aquino’s “sorry” is meaningless and insincere if the demands of Yolanda survivors, which are more suited to their needs to help them get back on their feet, continue to be rejected.

The storm survivors chiefly blame Aquino for the militarized, corruption-riddled, politicized, inept delivery and implementation of relief and rehabilitation to the storm survivors.

“Aquino is criminally liable for the thousands of lives lost as a result of his ineptness and negligence in guaranteeing the safety and welfare of the people residing along Yolanda’s path,” Eslopor said. Before Yolanda made landfall, the rest of the world had been monitoring the Philippines because it was expected to be the strongest typhoon in history – but all the Aquino administration did as preparation was issue statements that they were “prepared.” Not much in action was observed, according to survivors.

“We were told about the likelihood of a strong ‘storm surge,’ but no one told us what it was,” Abaño said. He told Bulatlat.com that as a leader of a local citizens’ group, he went around his neighbourhood in the coastal area of Tacloban City. They asked many “learned people” about that ‘storm surge’ but no one can say anything more than this being “a very strong typhoon.”

Abaño said they concluded that they just had to be careful – some suggested seeking higher ground, but generally most of the residents asked, “where shall we go?”

Abaño himself survived the rapid rise of water, as much as 30 feet in just a few minutes, by clutching at cables of electricity. He survived the storm surge and saw many of his neighbors lying dead among the debris.

“We had been talking only the night before,” Abaño said about his dead neighbors. With the People Surge, Abaño is now one of the thousands demanding justice for the Aquino government’s criminal negligence.

“Aquino has been criminally negligent not only during the onslaught of Yolanda but even before and after it struck the country,” People Surge said. In Tacloban City for example, when night fell after most of their neighbors and houses were swept away, the children survivors were crying because of hunger but there was no food. It took four days before relief came, and it wasn’t from the government but from concerned organizations, the survivors said.

Aquino mainly and firstly sent in the military, citing as excuse the reported “looting” that happened, and disregarding the logical explanation by survivors that desperate heads of the family were driven to such desperate measures as their children cried for lack of food and water.

Today, the survivors of Yolanda’s wrath are also finding it difficult to get back on their feet, not only because they lack appropriate services from the government — on the contrary they are being “evicted” and forced to accept loans or “cosmetic” solutions of short-term jobs – they also have to contend with increased military deployment.

In Samar, storm survivors with People Surge told Bulatlat.com that the farmers are finding it hard to work on their field as soldiers accost them and question those who signed the People Surge petition.

“What’s wrong with making noise? We can’t stomach it anymore. They’re threatening our relatives in Eastern Visayas,” said Marisa Cabalijao of People Surge Western Samar chapter. Another survivor said that just because they are criticising the government’s response, “it doesn’t mean we are automatically members of the New Peoples’ Army.”

With Cabalijao, Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez urged the public to support the storm survivors. “It is really shocking what our kababayan suffered, and what they’re still suffering now,” Yñiguez said. He called on the public and his fellow Church people to “continue to open their eyes to what are really happening, because much of what are happening are not reaching the public.”

Benedictine nun Eslopor also urged the public to support their efforts and their week of protests against the Gang of Five, as they demand justice from the Aquino’s criminal negligence and flawed rehabilitation efforts. (http://bulatlat.com)

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  1. Wala na lang kayong ginagawa kundi pangulo. Magpasalamat nga tayo sa mga tauhan ni P-Noy na hindi mga kurakot. Dapat ang tutok natin ay bantay kurakot atsaka reminder la-ang. Alam nyo ng si Ping ay hindi kurakot puro panira na lang ang ginagawa natin. Puri-puri pa rin tayo sa doctrine ng Intsik kahit alam nyo na na binu-bully na tayo sa ating territory, ganon pa rin kayo. Marami man sana tayo magagawa kuing talagang matuwid ng govierno ang gusto natin, Kaso puro tayo pasaway. Hardcore ako na aktibista noong araw. Kasama sila sixto carlos, ericson baculinao at iba pa, pero ang panahon noon ay magkaiba ngayon. Kaya tulong na lang tayo, Hindi ltalaga madali mag response sa dami ng problemang iniwan, panahon noong first leader natin. Kahit na yong mga hero natin lahat, kasangkapan ng mason ang mga iyon na galamay ng hudeo.

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