POSTSCRIPT / November 9, 2014 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Noy’s ‘best’ not good enough for Y victims?

WORK IN PROGRESS: “We’re doing our best,” summed up President Noynoy Aquino in his report one year after super-typhoon Yolanda devastated the Visayas, killing almost 10,000 people, destroying dwellings, crops and property worth countless billions of pesos.

He was talking in the progressive tense (“doing”). This means that the government’s relief and rehabilitation operation is still work in progress, periodic accounting of which will depend on what is actually done and what the administration chooses to focus on in its reports.

That is how complicated and colored the projected image of the post-Yolanda reality could be as it passes through various filters on its way to the public.

* * *

FUZZY ACCOUNTING: Like the yearly State of the Nation Address of the President, how his Yolanda report registers on the typhoon victims in the Visayas and their empathizing countrymen elsewhere will depend mostly on how relief&rehab has affected them directly.

To most victims, Yolanda is personal. The avalanche of government statistics, press releases and occasional visits by national officials may not be enough to wash away the physical and psychological hurt they have suffered.

Having been slow and niggardly, the impact of government efforts may not be fully felt. In some places, the direct and speedy aid extended by non-government organizations and foreign donors may even be better appreciated.

Knowing how the system drags, many donors have deemed it better to dole out the assistance themselves. This has complicated keeping track or auditing of aid from outside entities that have bypassed the government.

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TACLOBAN SKIPPED: In Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where the President chose to mark the anniversary of Yolanda’s devastating landfall – skipping the hardest-hit Tacloban City where the mayor is with the opposition — he said:

Sige, murahin niyo na ako, batikusin niyo na ako, pero palagay ko ang gawain natin ay dapat tama. (OK, curse me, criticize me, but I believe our job should be done properly).”

He said that calamity victims were being fed wrong information by politicians who see nothing good in his administration. The Liberal Party titular head added that it would be up to the people whether to vote for these politicians in the May 2016 elections.

* * *

ELECTION TIMING: That remark was unfortunate. With the President having publicly succumbed to the urge to bring up the politics factor, from now on all talk of Yolanda relief&rehab will have a political context.

Considering that his administration’s trust rating has been on the decline, the President should have done his best to keep politics out of the picture.

There is already talk that one reason why the administration has delayed full reconstruction is that 2014 is too early for the next elections. The correct timing is supposed to be for the LP administration to unleash massive rehab close to the 2016 elections so people can remember it.

A frenzy of fund releases and rebuilding is expected as the May 2016 elections draw nearer. Only P51.9 billion of the P167.8 billion in the Yolanda master plan has so far been released.

* * *

BINAY’S ROLE: The role of Vice President Jojo Binay in the housing part of the Yolanda master plan has kept people guessing. The news has it that the President reiterated to him that assignment in the last Cabinet meeting.

How will Binay coordinate with Rehab Czar Ping Lacson, who has been itching to show his mettle in management? Who will keep a tight hold on the rehab purse strings? I sense it will neither be Binay nor Lacson, but the omnipotent Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Is this Yolanda housing assignment a test or a trap, or a chance given to Binay to make up for lost ground in the perception game?

For that matter, how is it really between the two family friends on their way to May 2016?

* * *

DARK FATE: From where I sit, the face and fate of Binay are getting darker by the day. The longer he fails to show positive proof of his innocence of the charges being hurled at him, the less he is likely to come out of the fray intact as a viable candidate in 2016.

By positive proof, I mean hard evidence instead of the self-serving general denials he has been throwing back every time his enemies accuse him of some wrongdoing.

Actually, it should be the other way around: The accuser proving his charges, not the accused being presumed guilty until he can prove his innocence.

Senators Antonio Trillanes and Alan Cayetano must show to the gallery a title bearing Binay’s name to prove their contention that the VP owns that sprawling property in Batangas. They have not done that.

But in the topsy-turvy world of politics, Binay’s presumed innocence seems to have been eroded thin. He has started to look guilty before he can prove his innocence.

* * *

SENATE NOT A COURT: As said in an earlier Postscript, I think Binay has some dirty multimillions somewhere – but I cannot prove it. Saying this may not be fair to him, but that is what I think.

Also, I have stopped watching the televised Yellow Ribbon subcommittee hearings in the Senate, because they have become farcical with the committee’s prejudgment and conclusions already obvious.

Many people are turned off by the loquacity of Cayetano and the inquisitorial style of Trillanes whenever a witness says something tending to favor Binay, while giving free rein to whoever steps forward to denounce the Vice President.

If he is still in control, committee chair TG Guingona should remind his members that witnesses in legislative inquiries are invited to help craft legislation and not to answer charges. The committee usurps judicial functions when it presumes to determine the guilt or innocence of anybody.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 9, 2014)

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