New Internationalist

After the floods, the blame game starts in the Philippines

Watching the flood waters in the PhilippinesThe rains did not come without warning. The water, brown from the thickest mud and all the garbage dumped in every space possible through the years, rose mercilessly. The reports on Twitter of water levels changed by the minute: ankle-deep; waist-deep; neck-deep; passable to light vehicles; not passable to all vehicles.

It has been raining the past days in busy Manila, a country of 94 million people, a third of wom live on less than a dollar a day.

In Marikina City, in the eastern part of the national capital region, as with most low-lying cities, no amount of preparation would be enough.
By early morning of Tuesday, 7 August, some homes by the Marikina River – a body of water that is both a curse and a blessing to residents nearby – were already submerged in water, thick and darkened by soot and filth.

Men, women and children raced against time to salvage whatever belongings they had accumulated over the years – clothes, plastic plates, television sets, electric fans. The more important ones – usually a statue of Jesus Christ or the Holy Child – were stacked in the highest part of the house.

I stayed for hours on a street with residents busy scurrying to save themselves and remnants of their homes. The water from the river was rising fast.

By five in the afternoon, local government officials forced the evacuation of residents.
With orange rubber boats, authorities scrambled to save residents trapped inside their homes by the river or who simply refused to leave. They would come back with around three to five people – wet and shivering and carrying with them whatever belongings they could bring.

They were brought to public schools turned into cramped evacuation centres.

As I write this, authorities are busy with relief and rehabilitation efforts. Some election aspirants for next year’s 2013 elections wasted no time in distributing relief goods to disaster-stricken areas.

The blame game has begun.

Some lawmakers in this predominantly Catholic country (the only country in the world that does not allow divorce) said God must be angry after the House of Representatives passed a measure that allows government to provide free contraceptives to the poor, a view that does not really hint of one’s faith but of one’s political ambitions.

The Church, the staunchest critic of the so-called Reproductive Health Bill, is, after all, among the most influential sectors in the country. It can sway the faithful to vote for certain politicians come election time.

It is the same Church whose members have the gall to pocket funds meant for victims of typhoons and other disasters.

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.  

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