Yolanda survivors criticized the Aquino government’s privatized rehabilitation which puts premium on big businesses over the interest of the poor disaster survivors.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Despite the rains that drenched almost all participants, Yolanda survivors gathered, filled and occupied Haiyan Ground Zero in Tacloban City today, November 6.
Thousands of delegates from all points in Eastern Visayas converged in downtown Tacloban to demand accountability from President Benigno Aquino III. They condemned his government’s “criminal negligence” two years after the supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged Central Philippines. They say President Aquino and his cronies have criminally neglected disaster survivors with their slow and inefficient, privatized and corruption-riddled rehabilitation program.
Earlier, delegates arrived in a symbolic fluvial protest along the Cancabato Bay and docked near the Tacloban City Astrodome. More than 60 boats with banners of People Surge unloaded survivors to cheers and welcome of thousands awaiting them at the Tacloban Astrodome. They marched together toward downtown to meet up with the Samar delegates.
The delegates from Samar had earlier converged at San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia connecting Leyte and Samar. Before leaving, they unfurled a big “No to Mar” banner saying there was never a ‘tuwid na daan’ under the Aquino regime.
Though drenched from marching under the rain, delegates from Leyte and Samar marked their meeting at downtown Tacloban with a song and banner dance. Then they began their program.
Dr. Efleda Bautista, People Surge Chairperson, criticized the Aquino government for its ineptness, very slow and inadequate rehabilitation program.
Nestor Lebico of Samahan Han Gudti nga Parag-uma (SAGUPA), assailed the Aquino government for “neglecting the peasant sector and intensifying militarization in farming communities.”
“Noynoy (Aquino) has given more importance to his friends and the U.S. than the Yolanda victims,” said Reb Calamaya, secretary general of Bayan-Eastern Visayas. He added that it appears Aquino meant to allow the US government to build a military base in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Locals have consistently reported spotting US troops in the area, where the US once had a military facility.
Paul Escalona of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) criticized the Aquino government’s privatized rehabilitation which he said puts premium on big businesses instead of the interest of the poor disaster survivors. He condemned the billion peso tide embankment project, which he said the national government had prioritized in its rehabilitation plan.
Jun Berino of Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas (local human rights organization of Karapatan), decribed Aquino’s rehabilitation as “heavily militarized.” He cited the case of People Surge volunteer Jefferson Custodio who was shot dead last year allegedly by military elements while bringing farm tools to farmers in Carigara, Leyte.
A day before, People Surge spearheaded their second regional conference on human rights, where it became evident there had been more cases of rights violations than earlier reported. Some of which they said they still have to document. They filed November 5 complaints for four cases of violations before the region’s Commission on Human Rights.
Marissa Cabaljao, People Surge Secretary-General, reiterated the Yolanda survivors’ resolve against Mar Roxas, Liberal Party’s Presidential bet. Roxas had repeatedly angered the disaster survivors with what they call as his penchant for buck-passing in the issue of preparing for Yolanda, and later, attending to relief and rehabilitation.
Bayan Muna Congressman Neri Colmenares attended the Haiyan survivors’ occupation of downtown Tacloban. In a speech, he expressed his solidarity with the disaster survivors. Colmenares is Makabayan’s Senatorial bet. He blasted the Aquino government’s criminal neglect of Yolanda victims. He sympathized with the survivors who reported in a regional conference two days before the numerous bottlenecks and irregularities marking the distribution of the government’s touted ESA or emergency shelter assistance.
Warmly applauded by the Haiyan survivors, his anecdote about asking fellow lawmakers if they could live in Haiyan victims’ bunkhouses drew loud cheers and hoots from the audience.
From downtown Tacloban, the Yolanda survivors later marched under the rain back to Tacloban City Astrodome for another program and cultural night.