‘Smear may lead to witch hunt among storm victims’
THE leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan slammed rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson Friday for accusing the communists of using survivors of super typhoon Yolanda as pawns to destabilize the government.
“Shame on Secretary Lacson for resorting to red-tagging just to cover up the government’s incompetence in addressing the needs of Yolanda victims,” Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said.
Reyes said Lacson’s statement gave state security forces blanket authority to conduct a witch hunt among the calamity victims.
“By calling the victims communist pawns and by calling Bayan a communist front, he’s inciting the Armed Forces of the Philippines to commit rights violations against the victims,” the Bayan official said. “It seems that the government’s eventual response to the demands [of the survivors] will be repression.”
Efleda Bautista, executive vice chairperson of People Surge, an alliance of Yolanda survivors, denied Lacson’s charges and said his red-bating tactic only showed that the administration of President Benigno Aquino III had no one capable in charge of rebuilding the storm devastated areas, and that its reconstruction plan itself was bogus.
“It was not the Yolanda survivors who were destabilizing the country but the Aquino government itself,” Bautista said. “Lacson’s smearing of the Yolanda survivors is rubbing salt into our wounds and should not be dignified with a response.”
Instead of responding promptly to the complaints of the slow pace of rehabilitation efforts in the storm-battered areas, Lacson was engaging in a smear campaign, she said, urging the President to sack his rehabilitation czar.
“Moreover, it is not Bayan or People Surge alone that has criticized the Aquino government response to Yolanda, but also the international community including the United Nations, because everyone is interested that the administration get its act together in the common goal of helping the survivors.”
Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan also tore into Lacson.
“They are victims seeking help because the national government has failed to address their problems . They are desperate. Now they are accused as [communist] pawns?!” Ilagan said. “Don’t they have their own minds? Their spokesperson is a nun!” Ilagan said, referring to Sister Edita Eslopor, the convenor of People Surge.
Ilagan added the Yolanda victims and survivors do not deserve the harsh treatment from the Aquino government.
She also slammed Lacson for resorting to scare tactics against the Yolanda victims.
“How typical of a former military man like Lacson to use the scare tactics to justify their incompetence and lack of compassion,” she said.
Lacson said Thursday that People Surge was being used by the communists to destabilize the government.
“It is becoming obvious that their agenda is destabilization and not the welfare of the Yolanda survivors,” Lacson said. “Based on intelligence reports, the super typhoon also affected the cadre infrastructure of the New People’s Army in Eastern Visayas. So they are now using the survivors to rebuild their network.”
Lacson identified Bayan, which he described as a “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as among those steering the propaganda campaign of People Surge.
“If we did not know that Bayan is supporting the group, we can say that they are making these calls out of their bleeding hearts. But why are they suddenly calling for the President to step down? That sounds like destabilization to me,” he said.
But Bautista said there was nothing wrong in accepting Bayan’s help.
“It is unseemly for the Aquino government to question the motives of Bayan and its associates in helping the Yolanda survivors, when the support of everyone willing to help in a time of humanitarian crisis is welcome,” she said.
Bautista earlier challenged President Benigno Aquino III to step down if he insists on ignoring the demands of the calamity victims for P40,000 in financial assistance per family.
“If the President cannot address the crisis caused by Yolanda as well as other issues of real concern to the people, his capability to govern is already under question. The petition signed by 17,000 Yolanda survivors was a polite reminder to the government of its shortcomings, but President Aquino virtually tore it up and laughed in the faces of the typhoon survivors. We do not deserve this, and we think the rest of the Filipino people agree with us,” Bautista said.
“Noynoy Aquino does not care about the Yolanda survivors, he does not care about what the Filipino people think of his callousness, and does not care that millions in Eastern Visayas are now entering a period of unparalleled hunger and desperation. He is more calamitous than typhoons Pablo, Ondoy and Yolanda as well as the Bohol earthquake...We believe now the Filipino people have suffered long enough and it is time to save ourselves from the disastrous President Aquino,” she added.
Aside from the cash demand, People Surge also asked the government to recall its no-build zone policy to allow survivors.
“The people have absolutely nothing and all the President is giving them is hot air. If the life of the poor is too difficult for him to imagine that he won’t lift a finger, we suggest he try living in a
tent or a bunkhouse, and eating porridge every day for the rest of the year like many Yolanda survivors still do,” she said.
“Eastern Visayas has been left in a state of socio-economic ruin. The major cash and staple crops are devastated. The people lost homes and livelihood and face looming starvation. But the government reconstruction plan is not addressing basic problems,” Bautista said.
She noted that agricultural losses in the region alone amounted to P65 billion, but the government’s reconstruction program set aside only P18.7 billion for all affected areas. With Maricel V. Cruz, Ronald O. Reyes and Rio N. Araja
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