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Prayer, despair mark ‘Yolanda’

Protesters converge in Tacloban, vent anger on PNoy

TACLOBAN CITY—Survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in this devastated city mark the first anniversary of the killer storm today with prayers for the more than 7,000 that died or went missing, and anger at President Benigno Aquino III for failing to respond to their needs even after a year.

The city that bore the brunt of Yolanda’s fury a year ago became the focal point for protesters demanding that President Aquino resign for what they said was his “criminal negligence” in the aftermath of the storm.

Waiting for Mic. Yolanda survivors picket the
capitol of Leyte to demand restitution and
quicker action from Leyte Gov. Leopoldo
Dominico Petilla one year after the disaster
that hit their province. MEL CASPE
A rally on Friday started with a fluvial parade from Basey, Samar, which arrived in the University of the Philippines Botanical Garden, followed by a walkout of UP student in Tacloban, then a march towards the Department of Social Welfare and Development office on Magsaysay Boulevard.

The contingent in Tacloban was followed by thousands of protesters from Samar crossing the San Juanico Bridge in a torch parade.

The protesters encircled the downtown area of Tacloban before heading to the Astrodome, where another contingent was waiting.

Renato Reyes Jr, secretary general of Bayan, said up to 22,000 would be on hand to mark the first anniversary of typhoon Yolanda.

Reyes criticized Aquino for staying away from the Tacloban commemorative event, and opting to go to Guiuan instead for the turnover of 100 temporary shelters in the first municipality hit by Yolanda.

In Guiuan, Aquino and his Cabinet secretaries assured the public that the government was committed to the recovery of storm victims, but Reyes dismissed these assurances.

“Aquino’s speech in Guiuan, Samar was a litany of excuses on why government aid to storm survivors was sorely lacking and late. A year after the storm, Aquino is still making excuses to cover up his government’s gross criminal neglect of Yolanda victims.” Reyes said.

“ He claims that government has done a lot, yet thousands of protesters say otherwise. He belittles the demand of People Surge for P40,000 immediate relief by deceptively and erroneously portraying it as a useless demand that doesn’t provide long term solutions.”

Reyes said the P40,000 in relief was merely a short-term demand and did not encompass the entirety of the needs of survivors, including housing, livelihood and the rehabilitation of agriculture.

“Aquino, in his speech, distorts the demands of the victims, insults them and engages in gross dishonesty. He is so afraid of the protests he has resorted to lying and cheap shots to cover up his incompetence,” Reyes said.

Paul Escalona, Bayan spokesman in Eastern Visayas, said, “Aquino must resign because he has been lying and depriving help to the victims since day one of the typhoon until today.... He is waray pulus (useless).”

Instead of going to Tacloban, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II will join a commemorative event with other Cabinet officials on Saturday in Tanauan, Leyte.

The city government of Tacloban begins today’s commemoration with a walk from the Tacloban Astrodome to Old Road Sagkahan and the downtown area at 7 a.m.

Sirens will be sounded and church bells will ring simultaneously, followed by a moment of silence and prayer.

At 10 a.m., there will be a Mass, and an offering of flowers and a candle lighting at the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Barangay Basper, Tacloban City, where about 3,000 bodies were buried.

There will also be a video showing the condition of the city before and after the storm at City Hall. In the evening, thousands of survivors and aid groups will join a 24-kilometer long candle-lighting memorial from Tacloban Airport to Nula-Tula.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said church bells will peal in unison at vespers on Saturday, which has been declared a National Da of Prayer for the victims and survivors of typhoon Yolanda.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in a statement posted on the CBCP website, said the church bells would ing a 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 and he asked bishops to have the CBCP commemorative praye read at Mass during that time.

“On Nov. 8, 2014, the Filipino nation will commemorate the anniversary of typhoon Yolanda that has ravaged the country’s Central Visayas region. Thus, we declare Nov. 8 this year as a National Day of Prayer, especially for the victims and survivors of the typhoon,” Villegas said in a circular.

Villegas also released the text of the commemorative prayer and encouraged prelatures, diocese, schools and organizations to conduct their own activities to mark the event.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines has spent about P563 million to help over 2 million people directly affected by Yolanda through the church’s integrated recovery assistance program, with funds coming from 41 Caritas member-organizations in six continents.

On the eve of the anniversary, Plan International, a humanitarian relief and child rights group, said much work remains to be done in terms of providing survivors with housing and livelihood.

The leftist International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS)-Philippines accused the Aquino administration of massive corruption in the way aid for typhoon victims has been spent.

The group’s chairman, Elmer Labog, pointed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development under Secretary Corazon Soliman as an example.

A Commission on Audit report in September said it found thousands of food packs, canned goods, bottled water, body bags and rice spoiled or unused; millions of pesos worth of goods and funds

unaccounted for, and close to a billion pesos in funds still unused.

The department also overstated the amount of family food packs it prepared in Manila by P33.3 million.

Supplies worth P58 million were spoiled or wasted. At least 1,000 sacks of rice and 128,400 cans of sardines were missing and P58.8 million worth of rice could not be verified with purchase records.

Some P2.783 million worth of food packs and 100,000 goods were ruined.

Based on the same COA report, Labog said the Public Works department failed to use a P4.4 million cash donation while P5.395 million worth of donated goods were not recorded.

The Health Department did not remit to the National Treasury P13.2 million in unused donations and it did not have agreements covering 93 percent of the P60.5 million total donations it received. – With Macon Ramos Araneta

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