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There’s the Rub

Get him out of there

/ 09:09 PM November 19, 2013

Frankly, I don’t know what Mar Roxas is doing in Tacloban. He isn’t helping, he is hindering. He is an abrasive, polarizing, divisive presence. He does not unite, he foments rifts. He does not inspire, he breeds enmity. Without him, Tacloban will be back on its feet in no time at all.

At the very least, he politicizes what most needs to be depoliticized. And nothing demands depoliticizing more than resurrecting a dead land.

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I can believe the story, however uttered in hushed tones, that Roxas had asked Mayor Alfred Romualdez to write P-Noy to say he was no longer able to function as mayor and was surrendering his post to him (Roxas). I can believe the story, however whispered in dark corners—it doesn’t pay to antagonize the powerful when you are prostrate—that Roxas asked the Tacloban City council to pass a resolution to that effect. It is perfectly in character.

Even if Roxas had demanded this in the immediate aftermath of Yolanda when the city lay prostrate, when the hungry were rioting and the opportunistic were looting, when it was all local officials themselves could do to survive, let alone run a city, it would have been capricious. Why be concerned with billing, or titles or positions in a time of love and cholera, or death and dementia?

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Roxas could have done what needed to be done, what he in fact needed to do, without asking for the position or title or billing. With the local government swept to the sea along with houses and trees and dead bodies, he could have brought the police in to stop the rioting, he could have come in and put some semblance of local government, specifically by mounting efficient relief. He did neither, and he was the head of the police and local governments.

Making that demand now makes “capricious” sound benign. Romualdez is an elected official, he carries with him the mandate of the people of Tacloban. Roxas is not and does not, he lost his bid to become vice president, the people of the Philippines preferring instead the person who trailed behind him for much of the campaign. He carries with him only the authority of the President who incomprehensively seems willing to indulge him anything. Where does a mere secretary, a mere Cabinet functionary, get off presuming to have the right to make a demand like that?

It clashes with the signals P-Noy himself is sending, taking a conciliatory tone with the Romualdezes, extending the hand of peace with the Romualdezes, calling for cooperation between government and the Romualdezes. For good reason: This is not about them, this is about the people of Tacloban. This is not about their positions, this is about the plight of the ravaged in Leyte and Samar. This is not about their, or their parties’, chances of retaining or grabbing power in the next elections, this is about the chances of the people of the Visayas getting back on their feet.

It can’t be lost on anyone, least of all the Taclobanons that the Liberal Party candidate lost to Romualdez in the elections. All Roxas is doing by his antics is assuring that the Romualdezes will win, and win big, in the next elections. That is so by allowing them to advertise themselves not just as the personal victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” but as the more personal victims of “Super-er” Typhoon Mar.

At the very most, Roxas turns what ought to be a policy of “Let a hundred flowers bloom” into “Restrain, restrain, restrain.” The only thing stronger than the winds that blew across Tacloban two weeks ago are the winds that are blowing across the country today, the winds of bayanihan, voluntarism, willingness—no eagerness—to help. These are levels of enthusiasm, creativity and initiative that need to be given free rein, not to be put on a tight leash. Roxas is putting them on a tight leash.

I do not like Bongbong Marcos, but I believe him when he says Leyte’s private sector does not lack for initiatives like wanting to send trucks and ferries and goods to Tacloban, but it does not want to hand them over to the DSWD, which is just an extension of Roxas. I do not blame it. Quite apart from that Roxas reeks of politics, there is his record in DOTC where nothing moved because everything had to have his stamp of approval before it did.

The situation is worse for the volunteers. Thank God volunteers are naturally forgiving, are naturally given to enthusiasm, are naturally given to doing things because they need to be done, never mind the reward, never mind the credit. But some of them—ask Juana Change—will remember at least that they were there to see that P-Noy won as president, and ended up being shunted aside, scorned and given no recognition; the victory was the handiwork of Mar and Butch, the credit belonged to the Liberal Party, the spoils belonged to them. The energy and enthusiasm will continue to be there among the volunteers, the explosion of men and women, young and old, rushing to help testifies to it, but guess who’ll end up claiming what they did. You’d wish at least some acknowledgment will be thrown their way.

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Put somebody else there, and it will. Put somebody else there and feet will take wings, hands will move like The Flash, spirits will soar to heaven. Put somebody else there, and the hundred flowers will bloom. Somebody like Rene Almendras, Jojo Ochoa, Volt Gazmin, or pretty much any other member of the Cabinet. Or you want to think out of the box, somebody like former president Fidel Ramos with his organizational skills and ability to command without being kumandista, or Cardinal Chito Tagle with his genuine and abundant concern for the poor and suffering, or Tony Meloto with his track record for rehabilitating the desperate with Gawad Kalinga.

But not Roxas. You want Tacloban to recover:

Get him out of there.

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TAGS: column, Conrado de Quiros, Mar Roxas, Mayor Alfred Romualdez, politics, tacloban city, Yolanda
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