Anarchy breaks out in Leyte and Samar
Anarchy has broken out in Leyte and Samar, the two provinces hardest hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” Looters have been ransacking not only malls, shops and warehouses but reportedly also private homes in subdivisions. Some homeowners have reportedly been threatened to surrender their food supplies, or else. In Alangalang town, Leyte, the warehouse of the National Food Authority was broken into, and more than 100,000 sacks of rice taken away by looters. The rice had been intended for distribution to typhoon survivors. A warehouse full of medicines from Unilab was likewise looted.
Some say that the looting was not a criminal act but an act of self-preservation as typhoon survivors have had no food and water since Yolanda devastated large areas in the Visayas on Nov. 8. However, there are reports of organized armed gangs breaking into warehouses and ransacking these. The security guards reportedly either fled or were threatened or overpowered.
In areas short of fuel, the gangs had trucks with which they carried away their loot. Television footage of the looting of the NFA warehouse showed men loading sacks of rice on a truck. That is not self-preservation; that is robbery and should be penalized.
Poetic justice killed eight looters when a wall collapsed on them. Hours after the looting, the highway was lined with looters selling their stolen rice.
In the looting of shopping malls, earlier television footage showed looters carrying away not only food, water and other basic necessities but also refrigerators, TV sets, and other home appliances. They cannot even use the appliances because there is no electricity. That is greed, not necessity.
In an effort to stop the looting, the national government sent policemen and soldiers from Metro Manila to Tacloban. But the looters simply moved to outlying areas, and the law enforcers were spread too thinly to protect areas outside of Tacloban. Malacañang said it would send in more law enforcers.
Looters have also invaded neighboring Samar. The people of Samar claim the looters came from Leyte, but the people of Leyte claim they came from Samar. Wherever they came from, the looters should be stopped and punished.
The US government has sent 243 Marines to Tacloban. More will be sent in the coming days. Japan is sending 1,000 men. Israel has sent a team of 200 doctors, nurses and paramedics.
Many other nations have pledged aid. Filipino-American communities are soliciting donations to send to the Philippines. A team from Doctors Without Borders is now in Cebu, waiting for a flight to Tacloban. The United States is also sending tent hospitals and, reportedly, also a floating hospital.
It is in the face of all this generous humanitarian efforts from around the world that the anarchy by Filipinos in Leyte and Samar looks very ugly.
The reason for this anarchy is of course the lack of relief supplies in the devastated areas. Because of this lack and the scores of rotting corpses scattered everywhere, thousands are fleeing Tacloban. But the two C-130 cargo planes cannot accommodate them all for the flight back to Manila. Thousands more who are worried about the fate of their relatives in Leyte wait in Manila for a flight to Tacloban. But they cannot be accommodated in the military planes whose priority is to help bring personnel and supplies to the devastated areas.
Supplies are piled in Manila waiting to be airlifted to Tacloban. In the unkindest cut of all, one of the C-130 planes ferrying men and material overshot the runway while landing at the Tacloban airport. The US Air Force flew in eight C-130 cargo masters with relief supplies. Can’t we borrow some of them to fly people and supplies in and out of Visayan cities?
Supplies are also piled high in the Tacloban airport, awaiting delivery to outlying areas.
Happily, the airport in Guiuan has been opened. That will be one of the hubs for sending aid to the stricken areas. But the problem is how to take the supplies from the airports to the outlying barangays. Vehicles cannot pass though the highway and some of the streets because these are blocked by fallen trees and power posts and debris from wrecked houses.
Those streets should be cleared as soon as possible so that help can reach the starving survivors. A limited number of heavy equipment is being used for the purpose, but is clearly not enough. Shouldn’t the Department of Public Works and Highways send more?
The national and local governments are clearly overwhelmed. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras blames the sheer magnitude of the destruction on Yolanda. But instead of giving excuses, shouldn’t Malacañang try harder?
* * *
Meanwhile, the government needs the help of all of us Filipinos. The international community is helping us; we shouldn’t be left behind.
If you are planning a Christmas party, postpone it. Instead, donate what you are going to spend for the party to relief efforts for the typhoon survivors. Your Christmas will be happier that way. Christmas is giving, so give to those who need it most. God will also be happier for your act of kindness.
I have ordered the cancellation of the Christmas party of the Association of Philippine Journalists or Plaridel. I have asked the members to instead donate their share to the relief efforts.
Other associations, groups, and classes planning Christmas parties should do the same. Let us all help our suffering countrymen.
Your daily dose of fearless views
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.