Gov't super quick disaster response deserves admiration | Inquirer Opinion
Sharp Edges

Gov’t super quick disaster response deserves admiration

/ 08:10 AM August 02, 2022

The magnitude 7.3 (later downgraded to 7.0 quake) hit hard around 8:43 Wednesday (July 27) morning in Lagangilang, Abra, and nearby provinces in Luzon. Heavy damages, landslides and early reports of fatalities and injuries hogged media. But, before noon, DSWD secretary Erwin Tulfo landed in Bangued, Abra, at the same time delivering prepositioned food packs for the victims. He was also distributing almost P10-M in direct cash aid to those who lost their houses and families.

Erwin told reporters that 30 minutes after the quake, President BBM ordered him to go to the heavily damaged areas immediately. The instructions were very clear, distribute relief goods and all the “cash aid” should be received by victims within the day. As a true broadcaster and still in his office barong, he mingled with the affected residents and provided immediate help and went next to Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte to further assess the damage and directly assist more victims.

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On the other hand, DILG secretary Benhur Abalos, minutes after the earthquake, immediately mobilized Luzon LGUs to join the PNP and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in responding to distressed localities while the DPWH thru Secretary Manny Bonoan cleared highways filled with fallen debris.

The coordination of national government entities with the affected provincial, city and municipal government was highly cooperative and solution oriented. The next day at noon, the President arrived in Bangued, held a Cabinet meeting with the national and local officials as well as members of Congress. But what struck most was the presidential instruction that local governments are the principals in all relief and rehabilitation efforts and not the other way around like Tacloban City after super typhoon Yolanda struck many years back.

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And truly enough, the most important actions on the ground in the affected areas were successfully delivered by the DSWD, DILG, and DPWH, giving heavy support to the affected LGUs as to where and when help was needed most.

Search and rescue operations were successfully mounted without fanfare, electricity was immediately restored while shelter assistance, water requirements and food allocations of victims were ably met. Gone were the usual post-disaster criticisms, delayed relief goods and unavailable cash support with protesting victims on media and many others.

The quake response was so exemplary that three senators, Joel Villanueva, Bong Go and Bong Revilla, coursed their legislative assistance fund to the DSWD to help the survivors. Even former VP Leni Robredo lauded Tulfo’s swift quake response, saying, “This sense of urgency is very important in crisis situations”.

The quake killed 10 people, hurt 375 others and affected more than 314,000 persons or 82,000 families. Around 1,131 of these are still in evacuation centers while infrastructure damage in Ilocos, CAR, and Cagayan Valley was estimated at P414-M.

But unknown to many, the new DSWD under Tulfo has been responding quietly to previous disasters this month, the six construction workers who died while two injured in the collapsed wall in Hortaleza farm in Tagaytay City, also the landslides in Abucay, Bataan, also in Malabon City and the floods that hit Bgy Tigbaua, Sibalom, Antique. And it is very clear to us that Tulfo is determined to deliver his new “super quick response brand” in the DSWD and first to arrive in disaster situations.

With Tulfo, Abalos, Bonoan and the NDRMMC working together under a pro-active President, our citizens are assured of immediate help from government once a new disaster strikes. PAGASA for instance has declared that 2 to 3 typhoons will hit the country this month.

New chiefs in AFP, PNP and NBI heralds new war vs illegal drugs

A month after assuming office, President Marcos announced new heads in the government’s law enforcement agencies–AFP, PNP and NBI.

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And for the first time, we will have a new AFP Chief of Staff in Lt. Gen. Vicente Bacarro, who will serve for a fixed three-year tour of duty under the new law RA 11709. This means terminating the previous “revolving door policy” where we had nine chiefs of staffs in the five years of former President Duterte.

The new PNP chief is Police Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., who was commander of Northern Luzon Police Region composed of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, CAR and Central Luzon. But his tour of duty will only be for nine months or April 23 next year when he will reach the 56 compulsory retirement age, unless extended by the President.

This is the problem in the PNP where leadership changes are too frequent. There were six PNP Director Generals during the five years of Duterte led by now senator Ronald Bato de la Rosa (22 months), Oscar Albayalde (18 months), Archie Gamboa (12 months), Camilo Cascolan (two months), Debold Sinas (six months), and Guillermo Eleazar (supposedly one year but opted to run for senator after nearly six months).

While the AFP revolving door was fixed, the PNP problem persists.

Meanwhile, the appointment of NBI director Atty. Medardo de Lemos, its most senior officer, completes the anti-criminality roster. The public eagerly awaits BBM’s policy on the war on illegal drugs and his anti-criminality campaign. Perhaps,these new appointments are initial moves.

DILG secretary Benhur Abalos earlier proclaimed an intensified war on illegal drugs. He promised air-tight cases against drug suspects and will mobilize witnesses and police to ensure prosecution. Abalos also revealed that “people power” against illegal drugs will be launched in the barangay grassroots. Last week, PNP and PDEA seized P408-million worth of shabu or 60 kilos in a Pampanga buy-bust operation with an arrested suspect, one Hernani Cosumo, 31, of Barangay San Felipe, San Fernando City.

We wish to see more of these in the coming days.

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TAGS: AFP, column, disaster response, DSWD, NBI, PNP, Sharp Edges
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