Where do we go from here?

November 23, 2013 5:09 PM

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Where do we go from here?

It may be that during the first few days of Yolanda’s havoc it was natural to blame President Aquino. He is the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. That is what being the President of the Philippines means.

It is admittedly a tough role and not for the weak-hearted. Nor is it only a cushy job with great perks. It needs energy and to use his father’s words – needs plenty of drive – and most importantly a vision.

If blame must be put it should be on those who had put him in a position he would not be able to fulfill. They knew his lackadaisical track record and capabilities when he was a congressman and later when he was senator.

Perhaps, if Yolanda did not happen, he could have continued with this namby pamby leadership and cover it up with well-crafted speeches and soaring rhetoric even as he did the opposite of what he said. It can work for a while but sooner than later, the incompetence will be exposed. That is what Yolanda did. The classic metaphor of an innocent child who sees through all the bowing and scraping crowd praising his magnificent clothes and says “but the emperor has no clothes” is apt.

President Aquino himself has said if his government was not ready it was because he did not expect the strength and ferocity of Yolanda. That is not an excuse. Whatever preparations he was talking about, these were not even visible. If it was worse than expected there should have been contingent plans to meet it. He so earned the ire of another paper’s columnist in an article entitled “An irrelevant president.”

We are now two weeks after Yolanda. But all we get are assurances. We are assured that things are getting better (per statement of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas) who said “We can now move the patient out of the ICU.”

That does not remove the culpability for the incompetence with which emergency operations were handled. We heard it from the victims saying that even on the sixth day, seventh day or well into a week after, distribution was chaotic and without a system.

It was said that so many who survived Yolanda might have died anyway without help reaching them because of the chaotic administration. We will never know just how many of the victims were killed by the government’s incompetence.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said clearly and plainly that how his government handles Yolanda’s tragedy would define his presidency.

During the interview Aquino was making light of the inference and said that the government was in control. But those on the ground said it wasn’t. It came from the victims or their relatives themselves who are more credible.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper was hailed a hero in the Internet by netizens for saying exactly what he saw on the ground.

In his Twitter account he wrote: “The scene here at the airport is desperate.” “The people in Tacloban have great dignity and deserve better than what they have gotten.”

“The search and rescue never materialized.” “There are mothers searching for their children, it is a sickening sight five days later.”

“There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief.” All this was beamed around the world.

With mounting hard evidence that the President and his government were incompetent and did not meet the standards for emergency rescue after Yolanda, we should stop asking him why.

It must now be asked and the question directed instead to the sovereign people. What must we do?

I talked to some friends the other day who know more about functions in government. He said they were surprised at the chaos and disorganization. These need not have happened had the President made use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command. It is a group within the military made of civic professionals who are trained to cope with such disasters. He is surprised that no one, not even the defense secretary thought of it. National mobilization would need congressional approval but district mobilization of the reserved forces was possible.

The group is within the military but it is not strictly military. It is known officially as the AFP RESCOM or RESCOM, (Pangasiwaan ng Panlaang Kawal ng Hukbong Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas). If President Aquino had qualms about calling in the army this would have been the alternative.

The group “is one the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Major Support Commands. It is created for the sole purpose of Reserve Force management, procurement, and organization,” according to Wikipedia.

“Their mission is to develop, organize, train, equip, and administer AFP Affiliated and Technical Service Reservists into capable, responsive and mobilizeable reserve force as an integral component of the AFP in the defense of the state and to participate in socio-economic development efforts.”

I did not even know such a group existed. And as my source told me, this reserve force is made up of professionals most of whom have been trained to cope with disasters and emergencies. But I am not the President or an adviser to the President who should have known better.

“Training is the major task handled by AFPRESCOM. Its primary modes of enlisting reservists are the Military Orientation Training Course (MOTC) and the Basic Citizens Military Training (BCMT). Graduates are given enlisted ranks based on reciprocity of their civilian experience in the military environment.”

Reserve officers are commissioned based on Armed Forces of the Philippines policy on (direct) commission in the reserve force known as Circular 30. Those who are commissioned thru this source subsequently undergo an officer orientation program.

‘Many officers in AFPRESCOM are licensed physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, lawyers and chaplains. Some are directly commissioned as Lieutenant Colonels thru the commissioning program of National Defense College of the Philippines as graduates of the Masters in National Security Administration.”

My source said he knew a reservist who was a retired general and a surgeon.

There are currently two types of reservists in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Reserve Force. One is the ready reservists. These are those who are “physically-fit and tactically-current reservist personnel that are always on constant alert and training; and ready to mobilize once a mobilization order has been given.”

The other is the Standby Reservists who are not required to have specialization qualifications but can be called on when they are needed for expansion to augment the Ready Reserve Force when needed.

Source: philstar.com

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