Manila, Philippines – As rescue and relief operations enter its second week, many Filipinos in the remote and ravaged towns and cities in Central Philippines are still unaccounted for. Filipino expatriates in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East have turned to Facebook and other forms of social media to try to locate and get information about the fate or whereabouts of their relatives in the Philippines.
Cash and in-kind donations from foreign governments and the international community have begun to pour in, even as relief efforts are starting to slowly come together. Many citizens whose homes were totally destroyed by the typhoon have been flown out of the ravaged areas and into other cities like Manila where they have reunited with their families or are being housed in temporary evacuation centers.
But many Filipinos to date have been unsuccessful in locating missing persons, especially the members of the Philippine Senate. Very few of the senators have been heard from since Haiyan made landfall in Leyte. Just weeks prior to Haiyan, many of the senators were very vocal and visible — in the halls of Congress as well as in the media — defending themselves from allegations of their involvement in the pork barrel scandal which saw the diversion of billions of taxpayer money into fake nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or into the personal accounts of top politicians and their cronies.
Filipino netizens with information on the whereabouts of the senators are being urged to post them on their Facebook or Twitter pages, or on Instagram. They may also report any sightings to Philippine and international media as well as police authorities.
Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama has nominated CNN’s Anderson Cooper to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Philippines. The White House announcement on the nomination came on the heels of Cooper’s live reporting on the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan which has devastated many cities and towns in Central Philippines. He is the host of the popular CNN news program, AC 360. His reports from Tacloban, the worst-hit among the cities in the province of Leyte, gained both praise and criticism.
Many Filipinos, including expatriates from all over the world, have praised Cooper’s early coverage of the devastation in Tacloban and the Philippine government’s rescue and relief efforts which he described as lacking in coordination and clear strategy. On the other hand, Cooper earned the ire of Philippine President Noynoy Aquino who asked for “greater accuracy” in reporting on his government’s relief efforts and to focus on the strong spirit of the Filipino people in facing this calamity. Cooper responded on his news program that accuracy has been his hallmark as a journalist and that his reporting had always pointed to the enormous strength and fighting spirit of the Filipino people.
A Filipino news anchor, Korina Sanchez, speaking from her air-conditioned broadcast studio in Manila, also criticized Cooper for his reporting on the government’s less than stellar response to the needs of Haiyan survivors. Sanchez said Cooper did not know what he was talking about. Cooper then challenged Sanchez to do her own reporting at “ground zero” in Tacloban. Sanchez is the wife of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas who is supposed to lead government relief and rescue operations.
In nominating Cooper, Obama said that the CNN journalist is fully qualified for the job and brings with him extensive knowledge and experience with political, social and other issues plaguing foreign governments, including the Philippines. Obama said that Cooper has also proven himself to be fearless, independent, and sensitive to the interest and needs of both the U.S. and its long-time ally the Philippines.
There seems to be bipartisan support in the Senate for Cooper’s nomination. That in itself is a rarity in America.
Tacloban, Philippines – The Filipino people are united in praising and thanking foreign governments and the international community for the overwhelming financial and in-kind support their country received, and continues to receive, in the aftermath of the most powerful typhoon of record that killed thousands, flattened homes and infrastructure, and turned once vibrant communities into ghost towns. In many instances, foreign rescue and relief personnel were first to arrive at the scenes of devastation, way ahead of teams dispatched by Manila’s government. In the first moments of the disaster, President Noynoy Aquino repeatedly criticized local governments for being unprepared for the super typhoon and for being unable to immediately respond to its deadly effects, especially in the hard-hit areas of Central Philippines.
Surviving individuals and families went without food, shelter and medical aid for days. Anger and frustration were evident among Filipinos trying to fend for themselves and struggling to flee their neighborhoods in search of relief, comfort and dignity. Cadavers remained uncollected, largely contributing to the unbearable stench of the national government’s relief and rescue operations. Meanwhile, Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments Mar Roxas kept repeating during media interviews that “everything was under control.” What little relief packages that were being distributed had stickers of the Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay plastered over them – a clever prelude to his expected campaign for the 2016 presidential elections.
The calamity hit the country at a time when massive dissatisfaction with the central government was rising at fever pitch, brought about by the pork barrel scandal that saw billions of taxpayer money going into the pockets of top politicians and their citizen cronies. Many calamity victims were quick to point out that the impact of the powerful typhoon could have been minimized had the pork barrel funds been spent as intended — to build public infrastructure and services that would have possibly put rescue and relief operations in times like these into place.
While the Filipino people continued to express their deep gratitude to the international aid they have received so far, they were one in making a last appeal which they described as their greatest, ultimate need. Today, in a unified message to the United Nations and through international media, the Filipinos appealed for a donation of a functioning government to replace the one that’s currently in place. “It would be the greatest gift of all, one that would put an end to decades of government corruption as well as suffering by the Filipino people,” they said.