By Atty. Salvador Panelo
ANDERSON Cooper’s commentary and observation on the Tacloban City situation went viral on the internet receiving a biting reaction from the famed and feisty ABC,-CBN Broadcaster Korina Sanchez, who happened to be the wife of Cabinet member and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, who, together with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, is in charge of the relief operations.
Korina Sanchez retorted to Anderson Cooper: “Anderson Cooper is not aware of what he is taking about.”
That reaction also went viral, too, in the internet.
In his CNN program, Anderson Cooper riposted to Korina Sanchez’s reaction:
“Mrs. Sanchez is welcome to go there in Tacloban – and I would urge her to go there. I don’t know if she has but her husband’s the interior minister. I’m sure he can arrange a flight.”
Of course the exchange between a local and an international broadcaster caught the attention of netizens and CNN & ABS-CBN viewers, and they expressed their sentiments on the exchange. Some siding with Anderson Cooper, while others took the side of Korina Sanchez.
My our son-lawyer Salvador A. Panelo, Jr., who could not contain his sentiment on the Anderson Cooper-Korina Sanchez tiff, as well as with those criticizing the government for its inadequate preparation to neutralize the effects of the hauler typhoon – and the national governments apparent slow response to the victims, posted in his Facebook, and in my Twitter account, the following statement:
“I agree with Korina Sanchez that Anderson Cooper does not know what he is talking about.”
Criticism of government response to major natural or environmental disasters is universal. The US government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2006 was a failure of leadership. “Even Japan with their much-vaunted reputation for organization was criticized for its slow response to the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and the consequent Fukishima leak. We should keep this in mind when assessing the performance of our own government. We should also keep in mind that while Mr. Cooper may very well be genuinely concerned about the pace of government, response, he is also very much in the business of selling news.
I firmly believe that our government is doing its best to help the victims of Yolanda. This is not inconsistent with the fact that its best may not be good or fast enough for everyone affected given the magnitude of the destruction and the various limitations and issues that mere observers can not fully appreciate.
Let us not forget that significant government resources are possibly still tied up to Bohol and Zamboanga.
I do think that P-Noy could have better explained why the government response could not come sooner and why air cannot be distributed faster. Let us just hope that that was more of a failure of speech and rhetoric, rather than leadership. We can take him to task for that later. For now, our unfortunate Visayan brothers and sisters need us to heed the advice we wished P-Noy had followed: stop pointing fingers. Let us help how we can help our government and let us follow through!”
This writer’s take on the matter on the Anderson-Korina exchange is that both of them are correct. Anderson Cooper, as CNN correspondent reporting live on the ground, was speaking on the basis of what his eyes could see. In his limited view of a portion of Tacloban City he formed an opinion – factually accurate – but not necessarily true for the entire devastated eastern Visayas, particularly the Leyte and Samar provinces that bore the brunt of Typhoon Yolanda – hence Korina Sanchez was also correct in saying that Anderson Cooper was giving an inaccurate situationer in Tacloban – because as wife of the DILG Secretary, she has direct access to the information with regard to the extent of government’s response to the victim’s plight – as well as she had communication link with other reporters doing their investigative and reporting work in other areas of Tacloban City – and the rest of the typhoon–ravaged places in the Visayas – not to mention the fact that she was herself in Ormoc City, another city reeling from the effects of the typhoon doing her reportorial job as a journalist as well as doing relief work and necessarily she has an expanded view of the realities in the relief operations and the government’s response to the victims.
As correctly pointed out by this columnist’s son, this is not the time for finger-pointing of blame – rather this is the moment for everyone to do his share – and to the best of his capacity and ability extend his help in responding to the victims of this latest tragedy in the Philippines.
During the last few days, the government’s response has considerably scaled up – and there is now an organized and faster relief works.
Meanwhile, there has been an unprecedented outpouring of help from twenty eight (28) countries sending huge amount of cash, hundreds of thousands of relief goods, as well as doctors and nurses, to the typhoon affected areas. Organizations like the Red Cross and other private organizations have poured in and combined their resources to give succor to the victims. Private persons and family members went in droves to the DSWD and the ABS-CBN warehouses, lending their manpower to do repacking work of relief goods.
Filipinos, here and abroad, have all come together and raised funds for the victims – and rehabilitation of the damaged communities.
Even the United Nations has stepped in and lend its enormous resources to help the tragic victims.
UN Undersecretary General Valerie Amos, who is in the country for the UN’s relief operations has expressed satisfaction on the much improved distribution of relief goods as well as her amazement at the spirit and resilience of Filipinos who face a herculean reconstruction job. Said she:
“I continue to be struck by the resilience and spirit of the Filipino people. Everywhere I visited, I saw families determined to rebuild their lives under the most difficult conditions.
So people are, of course, to an intent traumatized by what happened. They have lost loved ones, but at the same time they’re trying to look to the future.
I saw images of daily life amid scenes of devastation. Women either cooking in make shift kitchen or doing laundry and men clearing debris and scavenging for materials to rebuild their destroyed homes.”
Evaluating the flow of aid, the UN Undersecretary-General gave the following observation:
“Everyday aid efforts gather pace with the systems getting through to more people. Significant food and medical assistance has been provided and water services, as well as limited communications services, restored.”
Per its estimation, the United Nations reports that 1.1 million have received food aid since the disaster struck – and only less than the 2.5 million affected residents have yet to receive food aid. Amos noted that “water services have been restored in Capiz, Northern Cebu and Roxas City, with 43 medical teams from various international groups – and 44 local – providing medical services to the survivors.”
The United Nations added in its report that about “5 million children in disaster areas are in need of emergency shelter, protection and psychological support.”
Amos noted further that “there is a need to establish safe places for children given that 90 percent of day care centers in ravaged towns and cities were destroyed.”
The “spirit and resilience” of the Filipinos did not escape the observation of the Vatican in Rome.
Msgr. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who is in Manila to attend the Catholic Social Media Summit at the Colegio San Juan de Letran, told the reporters:
“We want to express our admiration for the spirit of the Filipino people. We have been seeing terrible devastation but we have also been witnessing the extraordinary cure, consideration and generosity of your own people.”
Everything shall come to pass. Hopefully, the national and local governments have learned their lessons well following the aftermath of the deluge – and will be more prepared and cope with typhoons of similar intensity that are sure to come given the global warming and climate change.
The eastern Visayas will surely rise from its ruins – and there is no stopping it from resurrecting itself from its ashes.
There is however a grim reality that is inescapable – and that is that the thousands of inhabitants of the ravaged Eastern Visayas, are poverty stricken. Their houses or what appears to be houses, are made of cheap and weak construction materials that can be easily blown over by super-typhoons in the like of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) – and torn to pieces.
Rebuilding and reconstructing those inferior structures will not provide their security and safety from the angry forces of nature. And every super-typhoon that comes will repeat the same nightmare of destruction and death.
And such probability and eventuality of extensive destruction in lives and property is not limited to the Eastern Visayas section of our country – but to the entire archipelago as well – as indeed the majority of our countrymen are living in object poverty – and in hand to mouth existence.
No amount of relief goods and rehabilitation work coming from within and without the country, can alter the status in life of these Filipinos. There must be an overhauling of the social structures of our society to effect the even distribution of the nation’s wealth and the means of production.
Hopefully, the gods of destiny will anoint men and women of pure heart and possessed of unselfish love that will cause the radical change of our political and social structure – before the downtrodden masses rise in righteous indignation and revolt and destroy the existing order.
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