Screencap of CNN Philippines’ website.
In those first few critical hours following Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)’s devastating impact on the island of Leyte, everyone in Tacloban, the provincial capital was in a daze. Everyone was in shock. Yolanda was one of the most powerful storms in recent history. Everyone saw the photos, the videos. The damage and devastation was massive. Property were destroyed. And *bodies* littered in the streets. And the stench was unbearable.
Alfred Romualdez was one of those in shock, in a daze. He was walking around Tacloban with his dogs, and Yayas when Cabinet Secretaries in the area rescued him.
Alfred Romualdez was pleading for aid.
Thousands of bodies littered the streets. People everywhere were hungry. There was literally no infrastructure of any kind. There was only one dump truck that survived. Only 5 of Tacloban’s finest reported for duty. Understandably the police had lives and loved ones who needed their attention. And some of course were visited by death.
The situation was dire. The situation was that desperate.
Infographic source: DBM Yolanda page.
Status of Yolanda fund releases (as of October 31, 2015)
List of Releases by Agency (as of October 31, 2015)
Detailed List of Releases (as of October 31, 2015)
Support Cluster Report
Infrastructure Cluster Report
Social Services Cluster Report
Livelihood Cluster Report
Resettlement Cluster Report
In those crucial first hours… on that first day following Yolanda’s onslaught, it was Mar Roxas who got everything organised. Command conferences were scheduled at 7 o’clock in the morning to divide the work for the day. “You guys will do this,” Mar Roxas ordered. He would tell the next set what he needed them to do, and so on. The airport— badly damaged— needed fixing. Tacloban’s airport was an essential access point so they could bring in not just equipment, but food, medical aid, troops, and other aid to the devastated area.
Alfred Romualdez seem to have forgotten that. Or maybe he conveniently forgot that he flew out of Dodge while the rest of the government was in Tacloban.
The week later, PNoy told Mar Roxas: “Pare, we need a resolution from the local government essentially saying we’re allowed to do all this.” Mar Roxas replied, “I’m going to talk to Alfred about this.” Under Philippine law, the national government simply couldn’t take over as extensively as it did, the local government of Tacloban. The President understood that however good he and his government could do, the harsh reality of politics was that it could be used against them.
Why is there a legal piece of paper that’s needed for the national government to essentially take over a local government?
You have to understand, Tacloban was nothing. It had no police. It had one working dump truck. It had no functioning government (he few out of Tacloban, remember? and even if he did not, Romualdez didn’t have the infrastructure to do anything, not even to keep the peace.) That’s not actually legal in the Philippines. What people don’t realise is that the national government could be sued for that.
So they needed a resolution to step in and do the work.
Yet even without that piece of paper the national government kept working.
What is the evidence of this?
Police and Military were flown in to secure Tacloban.
Food, Medical Supplies, equipment poured in. Aid was being given to Tacloban.
So a week later a meeting was set because the President was asking Mar Roxas about the document, and so he needed to talk to Alfred Romualdez.
I think the video is up on the interwebs or something like that somewhere.
And Alfred Romualdez was stalling. He was asking why do you need this, why do you need that. He was far from being the cooperative person, who a week earlier was walking the streets of Tacloban with his dogs and Yayas, in a daze.
In the room was also someone taking a video. Ricky Carandang said that he had barred the media from that meeting. He wasn’t one of their guys. So he figured Romualdez wanted a record of the event. What happened next? The video was being spliced every which way. Where did it first appear? The Manila Standard. And who owns the Manila Standard?
You have to understand, this was a meeting that didn’t need to happen. This was the meeting that took time away from helping real people who were hungry, and sick, and needed help. This was a meeting that needed to be called because legally speaking the national government can not do what it did which was to essentially take over Tacloban’s government.
I suppose the analogy would be that what the national government did was as close to martial law as it could. And here was Alfred Romualdez stalling, and rejected the Government’s help. We didn’t have a quorum, etc. etc. etc. So Mar Roxas was explaining the birds and the bees to Alfred Romualdez and the gist was: you know people are going to use this to get back at us down the road and that’s where the context of the “Aquino and Romualdez” line came out.
People need to also gain context that there are little laws like that that are scattered around. I know what you are thinking. Why worry about laws at a time like that? Because you also need to understand that PNoy and Daang Matuwid isn’t in the habit of “suspending the law” or turning the other way or turning off civility. Because where does it stop? Where does stepping out of the line end?
In the heat of the moment, Mar Roxas said, “Bahala kayo sa buhay ninyo!” Wouldn’t you be short when there was so much work, and Alfred Romualdez was making it harder for the national government to help?
Mar Roxas, and the rest of the Cabinet Secretaries as the record would show would continue to provide every assistance to Tacloban.
In fact, when Alfred Romualdez asked for 3 months worth of Internal Revenue Allotment (a local government’s slice of the country’s budget). Department of Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad said, “No, take 6 months of IRA because you need it!”
(Update) – Rappler’s Ayee Macaraig reported that Alfred Romualdez said, ‘Nakapagsalita kami ng maanghang na salita (We said harsh words) but in no given time are we ungrateful for help given to us’.
Ping Lacson who was head of the Yolanda recovery effort said that Alfred Romualdez’s statements that Tacloban didn’t receive any funds was a lie. “The city had already been given P230.7M in cash by DILG for the repair of gov’t centers as requested,” Secretary Lacson said. Mayor Romualdez, according to Lacson, changed his mind and wanted to realign the budget. This meant leaving the fund’s status floating. According to Lacson, Romualdez’s reason for requesting the funds, and then requesting to realign it after receiving the funds can be considered questionable.”
What happened between the intervening days when Alfred Romualdez was walking aimlessly like a survivor of an apocalypse in Tacloban, and the day he sat in the room with Mar Roxas, stalling and uncooperative? We can only speculate at this point. Between that day, and the meeting, one curious coincidence is interesting. Vice President Jejomar Binay, and the other Romualdezes arrived in Leyte. It was the week after that meeting between Roxas and Romualdez that negative news cascaded out. It was also following that meeting with Mar Roxas that the Manila Standard, a paper known for its anti-government stance, and owned by the Romualdez family, received those spliced videos.
Who is putting politics first?