THE year 2014 will be a rehabilitation year. How genuine and effective it will be will depend largely on who will be called on to participate in the planning. If, as usual, plans are dictated from the top chances are the result will be more the restoration of old, and less the rehabilitationto a new and better, way of life.

Since, however, plans seem to be again dictated by top politicians, survivors are stuckwith (inapt and overpriced?) bunkhouses which serve more as political campaign materials. This, in spite of survivors having expressed preference to do the rebuilding themselves and for government to just help them with materials and suitable (not in harm’s way) lots.

Target beneficiaries should be consulted and, barring that, the latter should move tovoice out their concerns. But that is just never done in traditional and elitist Philippines wheretop bananas always presume themselves to know better than everybody else.

Thus, the motive force behind much of the rehabilitationcould easily be political posturingand not the meeting of people’s needs. The good that can happen in the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by Yolanda and the earthquake could end upburied inthe debrisfrom the mad scramble for campaign mileage bysome, and for filthy lucre by other, political personalities.

It is not beyond traditionalopposition politicians, for instance,to throw a monkey wrench on the rehabilitation machinery of incumbents. The former can then campaign against the latter on the platform of “inaction or slow response” to the rehabilitation needs of the locality.

Moreover, even if in response to people’s voiced needs building materials and suitable lots are made available, old habits of leaders can get in the way of a new beginning for typhoon and earthquake survivors. There is simply too much money to escape the greed of an inept and corrupt bureaucracy.

The Filipino nation is a long-housewhere presumptuouspolitical, business and religious bigwigs occupy the spaciousand well-stocked second floor while teeming millions scramble fordroppingsin the congested ground (literally) floor below. An anti-dynasty law,a freedom of information law, reforms in the bureaucracy, in the justice and electoral systems, prosecution of the corrupt and eradication of the culture of impunity are some of the critical building blocks of a rehabilitated and more equitable long-house.

There is no escaping the need for short-term restoration of physical structures. But rehabilitationis definitely the order of the day. And a genuine one will only happen if on the long term communities are rebuilt along and on more truly democratic social structures likemore consultation and less dictation.