Roxas clarifies Romualdez charges

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Thursday, January 23, 2014


MANILA (Updated) -- Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Thursday shook the hand of Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who earlier accused the Cabinet official of politicizing the government's relief in Leyte in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Both officials were present at the second hearing of the congressional oversight committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act at the Senate.

During the hearing, Roxas was asked to clarify on Romualdez's allegations that the secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is politically manipulating the situation in Tacloban, which was one of the areas worst hit by Yolanda.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also asked Roxas to explain his controversial comment: "Bahala na kayo diyan."

Roxas said that the entire context of his statement was: "Hindi pwede na bahala na kayo d'yan." "The truth is I was taken out of context," said Roxas, who also clarified that he did not mean anything wrong.

Asked why he made the comment that Romualdez is "Romualdez" and the President is an "Aquino," the DILG chief said there was no malice in his statement. He said the context of the statement was to ensure that the National Government's actions will be on firm legal ground.

The Cabinet secretary explained that he was aware of the "reality" that the surnames of the Tacloban mayor and President Benigno Aquino III may come into play and create problems.

Roxas explained that he wanted to help all the Yolanda survivors and did not mean to play politics to anyone. He said what he said to Romualdez is the reality of the situation.

During the hearing, Senator Nancy Binay said government agencies should not focus only on Yolanda but must also prepare for what is to come in the future.

"Dapat magkaroon ang gobyerno ng concrete plan kung paano ang mga dapat gawin sa mga ganitong emergency cases at anong mga paghahanda ang dapat nilang isagawa," said Binay.

Marcos told government officials to have more flexibility in dealing with emergency cases, especially during disasters and that the ones on the ground capable of responding should respond without the tag of first responders or second responders.

The Joint Congressional assessment of the government's response to Yolanda includes representative from the Senate and the House of Representatives in order to know how to deal with situations like Yolanda and change standard operating procedures.

Roxas revealed that he was in Tacloban two days before it was hit by Yolanda but Marcos said, "Hindi kailangan yung ikaw ang first responder kundi kung paano gagawin ang standard operation procedure na dapat natin gawin mas flexible."

Roxas said the government has done its part in dealing with the situation as he belied that the system is too bureaucratic.

Romualdez earlier accused Roxas of allegedly playing politics and depriving them of the help they need.

In response, Roxas told members of Congress that the government is seriously doing its job and they are studying the situation in order to avoid similar incident in the future.

Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon said the Executive department should conduct a thorough study on how to deal with this situation with preparedness and the alternative measure on situations like the paralysis of members of the Philippine National Police in order to maintain the peace and order which was part of the big problem in Tacloban last year.

He also proposed that private resources should be used by the government for the relief operations, modernization of much needed equipment like tractors etc., and the operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in times of emergency for response disaster.

Roxas clarified that police authorities did their best during those times but it was also a sad fact that their families were also victims of Yolanda, the most powerful cyclone to hit land last year.

Senator JV Ejercito said the possibility of another Yolanda is not remote as he stressed that the government must create measures that will protect the people and the rescuers too.

Ejercito said a special task force who will focused on emergency cases like this should be prioritized by the government, as well as the right move to educate the people on how to deal with the situation, what to do and where to go.

Ejercito also urged the committee to shift from the blaming game to addressing the issues of rehabilitation. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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