GENERAL NAKAR, Quezon—Administration standard bearer Manuel Roxas II said Tuesday that those criticizing a comic book depicting him as the hero and savior of survivors of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013 were allies of his political rivals.
At a campaign stop, Roxas shrugged off suggestions that the comic book was inappropriate and an inaccurate account of what really happened, and said people who criticized it were merely trying to weaken his bid for the presidency.
“[To] those who are happy [with the comic], thank you very much. But to those who are reacting negatively, maybe they’re allies [of] my rivals. Maybe they can see that [the comic book] is effective. That’s why they’re reacting negatively.”
“I thank my supporters for making these [comic books] to explain what happened during that time,” Roxas said.
The 28-page comic book, “Sa Gitna ng Unos (In the Midst of Disaster),” featured the life and times of the administration bet, and highlighted his actions in Tacloban City when the killer typhoon struck.
“Comics are such a part of our culture, [they’re] already a part of any regular or conventional campaign,” Roxas said.
The comic book drew strong criticism from typhoon survivors who suffered through the government’s slow response to food, shelter and health services in the aftermath of Yolanda. It also drew ridicule from administration critics and political opponents.
In a statement Monday, his spokesman Rep. Barry Gutierrez said Roxas needed the comic book to counteract “the continued spread of lies about his deeds.”
Veteran illustrator Karl Comendador, who drew the comic book portraying the “heroism” of Roxas during the aftermath of the disaster on Tuesday, said he was commissioned by supporters of the Liberal Party.
He had drawn a similar comic book for then Senator Benigno Aquino III, only to regret it afterwards because of his poor performance as President, the artists said on his Facebook page.
Comendador said that he actually supports Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and apologized to those who may have been offended by the Roxas comic book.
Roxas tried to make light of the criticism.
“Is that the biggest issue of the day?” he said. “The issue of the day is the anti-money laundering. Every central bank, every money laundering authority in the world is watching what the country will do.”
Yolanda survivors vowed Tuesday to deliver “zero votes” to Roxas for “shamelessly peddling lies” through his comic book.
“Roxas should stop revising history by exploiting the Yolanda victims to advance his presidential bid. The die has been cast long before the comic book came out. There will be zero votes for Mar Roxas in Tacloban and the entire Eastern Visayas come May 9,” said Efleda Bautista, chairperson of People Surge, an organization of Yolanda survivors.
“We cannot tolerate another big insult and a big lie from Mar Roxas and his ilk in the LP, led by President Aquino. They are all guilty of criminal neglect. We’ve been insulted enough,” said Bautista, a Taclobanon.
Public outrage mounted over the 28-page comic book.
Bautista, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr., and militant lawmakers demanded that Roxas issue a public apology to Yolanda survivors.
Roxas’ rival Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan reiterated his position that “Roxas is a failed leader as evidenced by how he mishandled the Yolanda crisis.”
The presidential candidate from Mindanao has also said that Roxas cannot handle stress, noting that Roxas did not know what to do in the face of the massive death and destruction left by Yolanda.
Bautista confirmed that Roxas was in Tacloban before, during and after Yolanda, but said he was more concerned with politicking.
“We will never forget Roxas’ statement such as ‘Bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo,’ and President Aquino’s ‘Buhay ka pa naman di ba?’ when a businessman was pleading that emergency powers be granted to stop people from looting and rioting due to hunger,” Bautista said.
Worse, she said, Roxas met with Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez demanding that the mayor give up his powers to allow Roxas a free hand to make things move.
“‘You must understand that you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino,’ still reverberates to us to this day and Roxas was doing this while we were looking for and gathering dead bodies of our loved ones and were finding ways to find something to feed our families because (Social Welfare Secretary) Dinky Soliman was busy identifying and prioritizing their allies for the relief goods that were found rotting because of their slow response to the tragedy,” Bautista said.
Sought for comment on the comic book, the mayor said: “MAR stands for Mayor Alfred Romualdez.”
Bayan’s Reyes said Roxas should apologize to all Yolanda victims for trying to capitalize on their suffering to further his political ambitions.
“His comic book is quite a work of fiction but storm victims find it neither funny nor entertaining,” Reyes said.
Bautista said contrary to Roxas’ delusions, the people from Eastern Visayas continued to demand that the government account for the billions in local and foreign donations that never reached them.
She said several families were still living in unsafe and substandard bunkhouses that did not have water and power.
“Roxas and Aquino never cared for us and never will. They are a bunch of arrogant aristocrats that acted like spoiled brats before, during and after the Yolanda onslaught. They still behave like that to this day,” Bautista said. “Matapobre sila. They are heartless.”
“Mar should stop portraying himself as a Yolanda hero. He should stop claiming that the government’s response was adequate. Yolanda victims know this to be false. Even the international media reported on this. It is only the delusional Mar who sees it fit to pat himself on the back for the colossal failure of the Aquino government to prepare for and respond to Yolanda. Even Mar was caught unprepared as he was in a hotel in the aftermath of the storm, without a satellite phone and cut off from Malacañang. Mar’s tasteless use of a tragedy to advance his candidacy is beyond justification and should be roundly condemned,” Reyes said.
Duterte’s spokesman Peter Laviña said the Liberal Party was again caught lying through its teeth amidst the deluge of criticisms generated by the comic book.
Laviña called LP spokesperson Barry Gutierrez a pathological liar when he said the comics was courtesy of Roxas supporters.
“How could this administration tell lies straight faced?” said Laviña in a statement.
Gutierrez said the comic book was a dramatic depiction of what Roxas has done to help victims of Yolanda in Tacloban and would “set the record straight.”
But Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who is running for senator, said Roxas was trying to revise history.
“Let this be a lesson to us all to always learn our history and to always stand up for the truth so that those who want to revise history for their own gain will not succeed. Filipinos should not vote for these candidates,” Colmenares said.
The depiction of Roxas as a hero during Yolanda’s onslaught was a lie that no Filipino believes, added Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer Labog.
“Roxas, together with Aquino, should in fact be held accountable for their criminal neglect when Yolanda struck,” Labog added.
Bautista said Roxas could no longer fool the Yolanda survivors and that the LP presidential bet should stop using taxpayers’ money and sell the comic books to the junk shop to have them recycled and put to good use.
“We can never forget the criminal neglect that Roxas did. We reject his continuing insults. He should stop insulting our intelligence. No to Mar in 2016,” Bautista said.
Malacañang moved Tuesday to support Roxas, saying the group of Yolanda survivors can visit a website to check on where donations went.
“People Surge can visit rhw Faith website for Yolanda donations. Congressman Barry Gutierrez already answered the issue on comics,” said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
Another spokesman, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., defended the government’s record in helping Yolanda victims.
“Government has always been transparent in recording and reporting proceeds of donations to Yolanda affected families through the Faith website,” he said.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman added that it was unfair for people to use the slow pace of relief and rehabilitation in the aftermath of Yolanda as an issue to attack Roxas. – With Maricel V. Cruz, Sandy Araneta and Rio N. Araja
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