Aggravating the tragedy-A A +A
Spark of Law
Friday, October 25, 2013
MARIBOJOC, Bohol suffered the ferocity of the 7.2 in the Richter scale earthquake last October 15, 2013. Lives were lost, and limbs were injured. The houses cracked and fell under the main quake and the aftershocks that followed.
The residents were cut-off from civilization. The roads and bridges were damaged making the place inaccessible to relief operations. The electricity was down. Water was scarce, and food, wanting.
We have a people famished, and thirsty. The word distraught describes their mental state.
But when relief operations arrived, led by the notable Red Cross, the town mayor Leoncio B. Evasco, Jr. would not allow the volunteers to distribute relief items. He drove away the volunteers.
Mayor Evasco’s attitude in times of the tragedy of his people should not be allowed without annotations. His kind pervades throughout the archipelago.
Lest we be charged of conviction without hearing, let us hear from him.
He wanted an organized relief operation. All goods should be coursed through the municipal government. From the municipal head, the relief items will be distributed to the barangay chairmen who will in turn give the goods to the residents of the barangay.
You see, Mayor Evasco reasons, a disorganized relief operations will be chaotic. One family will allow all the members to line-up. It will result in depriving other families from receiving the goods. There will be inequitable distribution.
At a glance, the intention of the mayor reveals some kind of wisdom. The intentions at the surface are novel.
But not so fast Mayor Evasco.
At the legal standpoint, there is no law prohibiting any person or institution from distributing relief goods. Volunteerism and charity in times of crisis is not a regulated undertaking. In fact, civic mindedness is encouraged. It is not illegal. It is even a virtue universally extolled.
What right then has the mayor to drive away the Red Cross volunteers who would not toe the line? He cannot invoke the constitution and the law. In fact, his action violates the constitutionally-protected civil liberty of showing compassion to the needy. Driving away the volunteers in his town when the former do not violate any law infringes on the civil liberty of the right to movement.
The more chilling revelation of Mayor Evasco’s action is the deep-seated attitude of town mayors and even barangay chairmen to treat their communities as their kingdoms and their constituents, their subjects. As such kings, their words are the laws. They dictate everything in their fiefdom and they are even beyond the reach of national laws.
Such attitude has led to the killing of political opponents during elections, and those who do not follow their biddings, harassment. We have seen places where the local opposition cannot even win a seat because the voters are afraid of reprisals from the sitting officials.
Incidentally, Mayor Evasco may have just emulated his former boss, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City. The latter is notorious for flaunting going beyond due process to run after so-called criminals.
Throughout the country, we have politicians who treat their communities as their fiefdoms.
But what is more appalling is the propensity of Mayor Evasco and his kind to be merciless even in times of tragedy, in the name of almighty politics. Despite that the people are suffering, winning in the election is what counts. If you allow the barangay chairmen to distribute the reliefs goods, with the looming barangay elections on October 28, 2013, we should be too naïve not to associate relief distributions with politics. They even go to the extent of buying votes, and killing opponents just to win.
Or Mayor Evasco might be thinking that we are all morons not to associate his actions with politics.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 25, 2013.