‘People Surge’ swells

Series of protests vs Aquino govt set nationwide

SURVIVORS of super typhoon Yolanda and their supporters on Monday vowed to stage more protests to express their indignation at the slow government response to their needs, after last Friday’s “People Surge” demonstration gathered more than 12,000 people in Tacloban City.

Their grief turned into anger the following day when
they joined a march that they now want to replicate
in different areas across the country.
“This is a People Surge – a swelling of the people demanding justice for Yolanda victims and asserting their right to food, housing, livelihood and social services,” said Sister Edita Eslopor, OSB, chairperson of People Surge, an alliance working for the victims of typhoon Yolanda.

“The massive number of people is proof of their intense discontent over Aquino’s criminal negligence and utter incompetence in looking after the welfare of its people. This is just the first of a series of

protests that will fill the streets of major cities across the country in indignation of the Aquino administration,” Eslopor added.

More than 12,000 protesters turned up last week from Samar and Leyte to express their discontent.

Efleda Bautista, a convenor of People Surge, said last week’s turnout belied the Social Weather Stations survey finding that people in the typhoon-devastated region gave President Aquino a “very good” satisfation rating.

“Countless lives have been lost in Yolanda’s wake and damage to agriculture, public and private properties cost billions of pesos. The devastation wrought by super typhoon Yolanda may have been horrific, but more horrendous is the... Aquino government’s ineptness in addressing the wellbeing of its people,” the People Surge alliance said.

The alliance also hold Aquino administration responsible for the high death toll in the region because it failed to guarantee the safety and welfare of the victims when super typhoon Yolanda struck the country on Nov. 8, 2013.

They also assailed the Aquino government’s “slow delivery of immediate relief to the victims even after two months, the corruption-riddled bunkhouses, and the anti-people no-build policy imposed on residents within the 40-meter stretch from the shore.”

Night of tears, day of anger.
Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda
gathered at a state university in
Tacloban City over the weekend
to remember their dead.
The alliance also criticized the administration’s Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY), popularly known as “Build Back Better,” saying that “the hapless victims, not big businesses, should be at the core of the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of the government.”

Among the alliance’s immediate demands are the P40,000 monetary aid per family of typhoon victims, the scrapping of the no-build zone policy that effectively evicts families in coastal communities from their homes and livelihood, the immediate reconstruction of vital public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and the immediate restoration of utilities such as power and water sources.

Last week’s rally was the culmination of a two-day vigil-memorial for the typhoon victims at the Eastern Visayas State University in Tacloban City.

In a statement, the alliance also alleged that the police stopped at least 11 jeepneys carrying Yolanda victims and supporters from Western Samar to prevent them from attending the indignation rally.

Two opposition lawmakers on Monday urged Yolanda survivors and their supporters to mobilize and conduct a ‘People Surge’ in Manila, near the Palace, to dramatize their strong discontent over the way the Aquino government was attending to their needs.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan and Akabada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, in separate interviews with the Manila Standard, said that the disaster victims should keep up the pressure on the government to move more swiftly.

Ilagan said it has been almost four months since the killer typhoon hit the country and devastated several areas in Leyte and Samar, and yet the government appeared to be callous and remiss in its duty to respond quickly to the typhoon survivors.

“It looks like a People Power or Surge has a better chance of shocking and mobilizing the executive to address the problems. How many calamities do we have to endure to force the national leadership to act?” Ilagan said.

Dela Cruz, member of the House independent minority bloc of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said the Aquino government needs to be pushed into action.

“The Yolanda survivors and their supporters should hold their People Surge in Manila to press for government action on their plight,” Dela Cruz said. “Not only the victims but all people of goodwill who are as concerned as those on the ground about the very, very slow and highly specious manner by which the rehabilitation or reconstruction is being implemented,” he added.

Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, an administration lawmaker, warned Malacanang not to wait for a People Surge to take action.

Tambunting said the government had all the resources needed to give the much needed help to the Yolanda victims.

Former senator Panfilo Lacson, the government’s rehabilitation czar, should be in Yolanda-stricken areas personally supervising the rehabilitation process, Tambunting added.

But opposition congressman Rep. Rodolfo Albano III from Isabela said the protests would do the victims no good, and urged Yolanda survivors to be more patient.

“Rome was not built in a day,” he said.

Administration ally Rep. Rodel Batocabe of the Ako-Bicol party-list added that holding protests in Manila would waste time and resources.

“They should save transportation and accommodation for their needs. All they have to do is to call a press conference and declare whatever their grievances are,” Batocabe said.

Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal Jr. agreed.

“It is their prerogative to press the government and to dramatize their plight, especially if they are convinced that the government has not been doing its part in helping them,” he said.

But he warned the victims that there were those who might take advantage of their plight to attack the government.

“Perhaps they should just be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing, those who might be using the victims to embarrass the government and to advance their own political agenda. This is tantamount to victimizing the victims all over again,” Banal said.

1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III said the government should grant the survivors’ petition for P40,000 in financial assistance.

Also on Monday, the independent minority bloc said it would launch a full-blown investigation into the SWS survey, saying the result was “truly unimaginable.”

The SWS survey showed Aquino’s approval ratings in areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda hit a high of 73 percent (with a net satisfaction rating of +54), which was higher than his score outside calamity areas at 69 percent (+48).

“We want an investigation into this not just simply to find out the accuracy but more importantly, to determine if the survey, and the SWS, are part of a cover-up to hide from the people the government’s incompetence and possible irregularities in rehabilitation efforts for Yolanda survivors, a statement issued by the bloc said.

The group said that reactions by both the survivors and some of their colleagues who had visited the disaster-stricken areas totally contradicted the survey’s result. With Maricel V. Cruz


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