By Fr. SANTIAGO SALAS (Ka Sanny)
Spokesperson, NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas today expressed support for the movement of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors against President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, and said it is “a movement to bring a criminal to justice for repeatedly violating the rights of the people. The reason why the Yolanda survivors are agitating against Aquino is that he should have been thrown out of office and into prison right after Typhoon Yolanda last 8 November 2013,” said Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, NDFP-EV spokesperson.
“BS Aquino virtually made use of an act of nature as a weapon of mass destruction against the poor, afterwards relentlessly starving, neglecting, displacing, and intimidating them. The last straw is that the Yolanda rehabilitation master plan recently signed by Aquino is nothing but another largesse of the pork barrel regime to big bureaucrats and big business at the expense of the poor.
“Aquino continues to dodge his criminal accountability for the despicable attacks on the social and economic rights of the Yolanda survivors. It is one reason for his evasion of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that should already be tackling socio-economic reforms, including the plight of calamity survivors. ”
Fr. Salas slammed Aquino as responsible for thousands of deaths that have become “collateral damage” under the prevailing social injustice in the country. “BS Aquino is more than a dullard but a mean and vicious political leader who, despite forecasts of a supertyphoon and predictions of a devastating storm surge, let millions of poor Filipinos remain in harm’s way. Even the few who were in government evacuation centers were reached and killed by the storm surge in Tacloban City and elsewhere. The number of deaths may reach tens of thousands, while the government estimate of 6,300 killed is understated because unidentified bodies were not counted. In contrast, Vietnam did not have any deaths after it was hit next by Yolanda because its government carried out mandatory evacuation of all vulnerable people.
“Aquino also violated national sovereignty by throwing open the door to US military intervention in the guise of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the Yolanda victims. Thus, US imperialism and its puppet Aquino regime paved the way for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the continuation of exploitative neocolonial relations, including economic plunder that also contributes to climate change and consequent natural disasters like Typhoon Yolanda.”
The NDFP-EV spokesperson also said Aquino took a week to decide on massive delivery of emergency aid to hard-hit areas, while failing to sustain relief services in the succeeding months. “Aquino let the people languish and sent soldiers first of all to gag the people’s uproar because they had no food, water or electricity in the storm’s aftermath. He also tried to end government relief operations as early as December 2013, and several more times in the ensuing months, even though the people were desperate because the storm had completely destroyed commercial and food crops in the hard-hit areas. Many relief goods even rotted in warehouses without even reaching the Yolanda survivors. The people are still struggling to survive one year after the storm because of Aquino’s paltry relief operations despite the added efforts of international relief organizations of up to P34 trillion pesos of aid that remain unaccounted for.
“The Yolanda rehabilitation master plan is also too little, too late and too corrupt. It took up to a year for Aquino to approve a master plan of P167.9 billion, less than half of the initial P360 billion estimate for reconstruction, the latter also not commensurate to the government-estimated damages of P571.1 billion. The Yolanda survivors are thus left to suffer in the same way like other victims of calamities such as of typhoons Pablo and Sendong, the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga siege.”
Fr. Salas said Aquino arrogantly disenfranchised the urban and rural poor while fattening the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats and big business. “Aquino imposed no-build and no-dwelling policies on the urban poor communities in Tacloban City and other areas. He is thus mandating, for example, the forcible eviction of 33 barangays in Tacloban City slated for completion on December 2014. Thousands still live in tent cities and mediocre government-built bunkhouses that are unfit for human dwelling. Meanwhile, big businessmen who are cronies of the regime are investing in the major commercial and transportation center in Eastern Visayas, Tacloban City, to build not only resettlement sites but business enclaves in areas where the urban poor are to be cleared. They include Manny Pangilinan, Enrique Razon, Henry Sy and other families in various big businesses such as Gokongwei, Aboitiz, Gaisano and others.
“The peasants who are the majority of Yolanda survivors stand to suffer the most. The damage to agriculture which is the main economic activity in Eastern Visayas is estimated by Yolanda survivors at P144 billion pesos. But there is no mention of government aid for agriculture in the P167.9 billion Yolanda rehabilitation master plan. The coconut industry that was completely devastated will take up to a decade to recover. Other commercial and food crops are still struggling, leaving the the peasants poorer than ever.”
According to Fr. Salas, the seething discontent of the Yolanda survivors are leading them to demand the ouster of Aquino. “The Yolanda survivors have been demanding justice in democratic mass struggles since January 2014 even as the Aquino government is wracked by the pork barrel corruption scandal. Aquino has not only ignored their plight but stepped up military operations through Oplan Bayanihan. At least two Yolanda survivors fighting for their rights have been murdered in Samar and Leyte by government forces, while communities of survivors are harassed by the military as well as threatened with withdrawal of government aid. Aquino treats the peasants in Eastern Visayas in the same way of ruling class arrogance in his family’s Hacienda Luisita where he is frustrating the implementation of agrarian reform.”
Fr. Salas saluted the Yolanda survivors for persevering in their struggle for justice. “The justice system of the reactionary ruling system prevents the people from haling BS Aquino to court, much less putting him in prison. It is through their democratic mass struggle and broad unity that the Yolanda survivors and the people can fight to remove Aquino from office and try him as a criminal who so grievously violated the people’s comprehensive rights. By pursuing revolutionary struggle, the people can overthrow the entire reactionary ruling system and attain national liberation and democracy.”