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Despite disasters, politics prevails

At first blush, news coming out from Batangas and Cavite officials seemed like a spoof or a sarcastic meme. First was Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. who said he was preparing a resolution asking the House of Representatives to “investigate” (under the bromide “in aid of legislation”) the reason Phivolcs supposedly failed to warn residents about the eruption of Taal Volcano last Jan. 12.

And now we have Talisay, Batangas Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan appealing to the President to allow the citizens of his town to return home even as government seismologists were still warning that a stronger eruption is still possible.

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Natanauan criticized chief seismologist Renato Solidum over the alerts, demanding that Solidum change his “opinion” about the situation in the Taal area.

Where did these officials get the idea that they knew better than the experts? And were they not aware that Phivolcs already had put officials and residents alike on alert for the “imminent” eruption of Taal last December?

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“Why is he saying (that the volcano is still dangerous)? Is he God?” the Vice Mayor inquired. Well, the scientists over at Phivolcs may not be God (they never claimed so), but their job starts at warnings and continues through monitoring. It is the main responsibility, in fact, of officials including Barzaga and Natanauan to save lives and livelihoods by heeding the warnings of Phivolcs and set into motion evacuation and mitigation plans.

It’s unfortunate that the people of Batangas and Cavite have had to suffer economic, emotional and health trauma in the wake of the phreatic eruption of Taal. Suffering that is bound to continue in the weeks, maybe months to come. But while the nation’s attention should rightly be focused on mitigating the suffering of survivors, officials would do well to keep their mouths and egos in check during this dire situation. —————While Taal’s “Big One” is still being anticipated, international humanitarian agency Oxfam says even now “much more must be done to ensure the life-saving needs of evacuees are met effectively, and making sure no one is underserved.”

Even now, said the group, early planning should take place to ensure the recovery of affected communities. Lessons need to be learned from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, Oxfam pointed out, especially the importance of disaster management in all levels of government and in communities. We are fortunate that so far, no lives have been lost due to the disaster (save for three volunteers who died in a road accident on the way back from distributing goods in evacuation centers). But as early as now, preparation is needed to make sure that the lives of survivors aren’t jeopardized by long-term hunger, ill health or the loss of basic services.

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Even as the country struggles with the immediate aftermath of Taal, local politics continues to bedevil the lives of ordinary folk. One such apparent victim of local politics is a barangay chairman in Navotas who is accusing Mayor Toby Tiangco of carrying out a “vendetta” against the mayor’s opponents.

Wilfredo Mariano is appealing to President Duterte, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to help him in a kidnapping case that has been filed against him and two others by a supporter of Tiangco.

During the last elections, Mariano said some men came to his office in Barangay Tangos with a man they accused of vote-buying. The man, Rommel Sopera, who said he was a driver for the Navotas City Hall, denied the charge and said he was merely delivering food to Tiangco’s supporters. Mariano said that with no proof, he let Sopero go. But months later, the barangay captain received a subpoena for kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery and violation of the Omnibus Election Code. Mariano said that in a meeting with Tiangco, the mayor told him if he would provide the names of the men who brought Sopera, the mayor would help him. Tiangco reportedly was referring to the camp of former Navotas vice mayor Lutgardo “Gardy” Cruz, whose son Raymond or “RC” ran for vice mayor against Tiangco’s running-mate.

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Mariano said he is thus calling on higher officials to help him, averring that “I have done nothing wrong except maybe to fail Mayor Tiangco in his personal battle against his political foes.”

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Inquirer calls for support for the victims of Taal volcano eruption
Responding to appeals for help, the Inquirer is extending its relief to the families affected by the recent eruption of Taal volcano.
Cash donations may be deposited in the Inquirer Foundation Corp. Banco De Oro (BDO) Current Account No: 007960018860.
Inquiries may be addressed and emailed to Inquirer’s Corporate Affairs office through [email protected]
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