And how we can repay this
By Raïssa Robles
The outpouring of sympathy and help from all corners of the world, from governments and people, was like a warm embrace to a grieving nation.
There are few events in the world that make humanity come together so selflessly.
Typhoon Haiyan was one of them.
We, Filipinos, will never forget this.
In the future when a calamity strikes another part of the world, we Filipinos should also help out. Even if the tragedy happens in China or a first world country like Japan or the US. My hubby Alan recalls that when Japan was struck by an earthquake and a tsunami two years ago, some Filipinos criticized the Philippine government for sending a medical team to help out.
It is simply our duty to humanity.
And now, we also have to repay the incalculable debt we owe humanity, not just by rebuilding the rubbled cities and towns, but also by fixing our dysfunctional democracy – which I believe raised the number of casualties. And which could get in the way of rehabilitation.
Filipinos are truly a resilient people. We love to sing all our aches and pain away.
Jason Gutierrez, our FOCAP president who is covering for Agence France Presse wire service, posted the video he took below.
You can share the original video on Facebook by clicking on this link.
We owe Erica and all the other children like her a much, much better life in this country.
Long before Typhoon Haiyan struck, a “disaster” had already been affecting Tacloban and many other places in the country.
If CNN’s Anderson Cooper had roamed Tacloban City’s beach-side hovels before Haiyan came, he would have gotten similar sound bites from children and grown-ups saying they were hungry.
This was what had affected many viewers worldwide, who were glued to TV watching the horrific post-Typhoon Haiyan reports: The tearful pleas from children and adults saying “We’re hungry…we have no food, no drink, no homes, nothing.”
According to Marie Madamba Nunez, spokesman for the international NGO Oxfam, “in Leyte, one out of three belongs to the very poor and vulnerable” – that was the situation before the typhoon.
Before the storm, Leyte was a microcosm of the Philippines. The few who were rich lived in mansions while the vast majority eked out a hand-to-mouth existence.
Among the very rich in Leyte are their Representatives to Congress.
Last November 18 when Cong. Martin Romualdez – who represents Tacloban City – delivered a privilege speech pleading for more relief and rehabilitation after the November 8 storm, I had posted on the social networking site Twitter this question:
“Could someone pls ask Rep Romualdez how much of HIS OWN MONEY he gave to typhoon victims? Not pork barrel.”
Someone castigated me for asking this and said it was unseemly and not the proper time.
Another even cursed me on Twitter, using you know, the usual unimaginative words.
I had asked this question because Martin Romualdez once dropped US$20,000 for a dinner at Le Cirque in New York with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Surely, he can afford to give at least US$20,000 to his storm-stricken constituents. I could not find out. Nobody was answering his phone in Congress yesterday and today.
Congressmen from the typhoon-struck areas of Leyte and Samar could dig into their own pockets and collectively put up their very own relief and rehabilitation fund. They are collectively rich enough to do this, based on their net worth:
Martin Romualdez – P474,111,941.59
Lucy Marie T. Gomez – P160,214,222.89
Sergio Antonio F. Apostol – P44,637,900.00
Andres “Andy” Salvacion, Jr. – P12,300,000
Jose Carlos L. Cari – P 17,620,000
Roger G. Mercado – P44,100,00.00;
Ben Evardone – P41,284,255.00
Milagrosa T. Tan – P31,856,420.00
Mel Senen S. Sarmiento – P1,651,813.69
Emil Ong – P7,870,600
Raul Daza – P34,313,305
Rogelio J. Espina – P19,487,795
An Waray Party List
Neil Benedict Montejo – P19,690,000
The six congressmen from Leyte alone are altogether worth over P700 million.
Martin Romualdez and Lucy Torres Gomez are jointly worth half a billion pesos.
And yet, and yet, surprise, surprise. Congressman Martin Romualdez and his family have been asking people to donate CASH to the bank account of the Tacloban hospital which his family owns. And of which he is a member of the board of trustees.
Isn’t that unseemly? Asking people to donate money to your own hospital for the typhoon victims when you and your family are stupendously rich?
That wealthy lawmakers represent some of the poorest districts in the country has been the norm in this country since time immemorial .
And every year, these lawmakers just somehow get richer and richer while their poverty-stricken constituents remain poor, or get poorer. I will leave readers to speculate how lawmakers do it.
Typhoon Haiyan will aggravate the rich-poor gap in Samar and Leyte, especially.
Nunez of Oxfam warned that the economic effects of the devastation will be “multiplied many times over for the poor.”
According to the International Labour Organization Philippine Office Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson, the ILO has now estimated that 5.6 million lowly-paid workers have “temporarily or permanently” lost their jobs. Of this 5.6 million, half of them or 2.8 million were in the service sector.
“Service sector includes people working in shops, public markets, restaurants, vendors, tricycle and jeepney drivers, mechanics, clerks, teachers,. who, like farmers and fisher folks have seen their source of income wiped away,” Johnson said .
You know, 5.6 million – that’s roughly half the estimated population in 2010 of the entire Metro Manila with 16 cities and one town.. That’s how gargantuan our problem is right now. And that number is added to the number of unemployed outside the areas destroyed by Haiyan.
Fortunately for us, people from across the world and their governments have sent and continue to send aid in cash and in kind.
And what has heartened me and gave me much hope about all these is that Filipinos – poor and rich – are coming forward on their own to donate whatever they can afford for relief and rehabilitation. A good number are even flying to the devastated areas to help out.
A vigilant citizenry is one of the pillars of democracy. Unfortunately much of the time the citizens in any democracy have to be awakened before they can become vigilant.
This might be one of those awakenings.
A vigilant citizenry can demand reforms in the country’s political system – reforms that will equalize opportunities for work and for doing business.
Hindi na lang lagi mga congressman at senador ang nakikinabang.
For starters, I’d like to propose a close guarding by civil society of the foreign and local aid that continue to pour in. The bulk of this aid should go to the poorest of the poor affected by the storm in Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Palawan, Antique and other provinces. A smaller portion should go to the affected middle class. None should go to the wealthy – who have a net worth of at least P5 million.
The poor in the most remote islands and villages should all benefit from this aid.
And woe to anyone who pockets even a small part of it.