When all you can do is text


At Midfield says new information on Ces Drilon’s kidnapping is coming to light, which points to her having been used as bait by the armed forces; and that furthermore, the kidnapping could have provided public-relations benefits for the government as the President prepared to panhandle her American counterpart for anti-terrorism aid. Aid that has not been forthcoming, despite previous American commitments:

Against this backdrop, with the public interest having shifted to the tragic sinking of the inter-island ferry Princess of the Stars, this possible untold story in the abduction of Ces Oreña-Drilon may actually be more than tangent to the continuing Philippine component of the United States’ war on terror and the ‘negative result’ of the intensified hunt for Dulmatin and ASG militants the previous two weeks.

This is because the second tranche of up to $4M in anti-terrorist funding support committed by the outgoing Bush administration has remained unreleased, with American authorities reported to be quietly “auditing how, and why, the earlier first $4M installment had been used by the Philippine police to purchase computer facilities.”

In fact no such ‘anticipated announcement’ of the additional anti-terrorist fund came despite President Bush having congratulated his Filipino counterpart “on her strong stand on counterterrorism - more than strong stand – effective stand on counter-terrorism.”

(Filipina Soul links to video of the President’s cameo at the Oval Office, and translates the message that will become her public service commercial until November; Talented Earthquake Productions has something to say concerning Shrub’s body language; Fil-Am journalist Benjamin Pimentel comments on Bush’s baffling salute to Filipino Americans )

Gotta love this quip by Keith Olbermann, as quoted by UC Hastings Pilipino American Law Society:

“yesterday’s media availability with the President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo, a leader who’s country has recently suffered devastation caused by a typhoon, and now its been hit by something more like a buffoon.”

Incidentally, Dubya was supposed to meet GMA for two hours but the meeting ended up less than an hour, per the ABS-CBN clip.

Incidentally, environmentalists are in for a genetically-modified treat, courtesy of Arthur Yap. See my entry for today in Inquirer Current.

A grim problem is hogging the headlines. Even as Sulpicio probed on 2 angles, the problem, now, is what to do with the corpses.

A couple of days ago, At Midfield had blogged about it:

But instead of hopeful news, the mayor of San Fernando was appealing on national radio late yesterday afternoon for body bags and lime so they could tend to the dead.

To underline her own despair and anger, the lady mayor described how they’ve been been forced to sprinkle white cement on the recovered cadavers just to stem the decomposition while waiting for help. She also complained: not a single call had come, she said, from Sulpicio Lines, to coordinate and help.

Today, it’s ‘Don’t bury dead until we identify them’. Yet when bodies were being recovered from the vicinity of the sinking of the Titanic, what was done was to photograph the corpses; once identified, the provisionally-interred remains could be unearthed and reburied once more. That was in 1912. It is 2008, in the Philippines, and officialdom has to publicly debate what to do. Everyone, it seems, is frantic: Patience wearing thin, as relatives get emotional.

I think everyone shares smoke‘s sentiments that Sulpicio Lines should get it, right now, but the only way to get it seems to be in the courts, since I can only assume that a company boycott (once the ships stop being confined to port) would fail. notes of marichu lambino says both major networks erred in their reports; The Warrior Lawyer says, however, that Sulpicio Lines has deeper pockets than all its passengers put together and can play for time:

However, it’s difficult to prove criminal negligence on the part of the officials of a large common carrier like Sulpicio Lines. It can claim to have exerted extraordinary diligence in running its business. It can hire the best lawyers and fight it out in the courts, even if it takes decades, as it did in the litigation arising from the Dona Paz disaster.

Already the company seems to be shifting the blame to the ship captain, who is still missing, when it said that it was his call whether to push through with the ill-fated voyage or cancel the trip.

Furthermore, the undeniable fact is the company has deeper pockets than any of its passengers. As noted by the Supreme Court, the bulk of its passengers are poor. The latest victims of this outrage will face an uphill battle in their quest for justice.

Meanwhile, the rebuilding has barely started in places like Iloilo. Steven Rood in the In Asia blog did a roundup of the typhoon’s devastation as chronicled in SMS messages:

First, on Friday, messages came from Mindanao — a friend explained how his school was chest deep in water, ruining everything that couldn’t be moved quickly to the second floor. Bus service was suspended to the capital of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Rice and corn lands in southern Mindanao were inundated. Fishermen were charging 20 pesos (about $0.50, a sizable sum of money for those earning minimum wage) per head to ferry people through the floods.

Then, on Saturday, the drama began in the central Philippines. Writer Gail Ilagan entitled her account “Helpless in Davao,” since she was in that southern Mindanao city while her aged parents were trapped by rising water in Iloilo. “At 3:00, Mom texted to say they broke through the roof to escape the flood. I tried to keep her spirits up by texting her hope, encouragement, and practical survival tips.”

By Sunday, the typhoon had continued north to Manila. A friend in central Luzon texted about her house being flooded — but, for our Asia Foundation office in Manila, a run of our emergency “text tree” seemed to show that all of our office staff members were safe. By Sunday afternoon, the typhoon had moved far enough north that I was able to text my family from Taipei that I was indeed coming home instead of being stranded at a conference.

There is talk of how this communication technology heralds the “death of distance,” but in fact, that seems illusory. Gail Ilagan’s brother-in-law in Iloilo, while trying to rescue her parents, had to tie himself to an electric post for 5 hours to save himself from the buffeting of surging waters — no text messages from him. More prosaically, since there were widespread brownouts, cell phone batteries began to run down and communications died.

The most ominous dearth of information was about the sinking of the ferry, “Princess of the Stars.” The whole world now knows that it set sail before it was clear how bad the storm would be at its destination, and failed to reach safety (perhaps due to engine failure). At first, all we in the Philippines knew was that an upturned ferry had been spotted by local residents. Gradually, Philippine divers and boats, assisted by U.S. navy personnel and equipment, revealed the awful scope of the tragedy.

In his entry, Rood points out that despite the carping, somehow, things more or less function in the Philippines. The problem is, and it’s not really reflected in he said, she said, news items like this: Iloilo leaders rage over NDCC’s slow response: Biron: Gov’t agency is a ‘disaster in itself’, or this one, Air Force flies planeload of relief goods to Iloilo, in which an apparently lone C-130 has been shuttling back and forth from Metro Manila to Iloilo- is that the scale of the typhoons devastation was simply, unprecedented:

After such incidents, and indeed after widespread devastation by a typhoon, there are calls for inquiries and attempts to lay blame. Indeed, President Arroyo, in a televised meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Committee (NDCC) that she was chairing via videolink from the United States, began to take the Coast Guard to task for allowing the ferry to set sail.

Still, it must be said that the Philippines has a system that functions in these situations — from the NDCC, to the Corporate Network for Disaster Response, to media organizations that cooperate with the government in relief and rehabilitation. With some 20 typhoons hitting the Philippines each year, such a system is continually tested. What was unusual about Typhoon Frank/Fengshen was the sheer geographic scale of the effects — from the southern Philippines all the way to northern Luzon. Even if disaster management systems were perfect, it would be overwhelmed.

Individuals respond well — as did Gail Ilagan’s parents who were eventually able to return to the ground floor of their house. In fact, individual talent and perseverance is a hallmark of Filipinos — which can sometimes lead to micro-managing by leaders rather than reliance on systems. Several years ago, during another typhoon, a Cabinet Secretary stepped out of an embassy reception to communicate with a senator about the availability of rubber boats for evacuating a particular flooded location.

My column for today is Relief by remote control looks at the argument that the President was damned if she did, damned if she didn’t; but to my mind, if she was going to insist on the need to push through with her trip to America, she could then have fully delegated things to her subordinates. But she did not.

Which means she loses out every which way: the public won’t give her any credit, the experts in disaster management will grumble, and this exacts a genuine toll on people’s energies and abilities, from having to troop to the Palace at 1am (in truth, the preparations begin at 9 pm for something like a 1 am presidential broadcast event) to attend a meeting, much of which was spent rehashing what had been done during work hours.

Most of all, her insisting she can run things by remote control from abroad, which means she believes her going abroad is more important than staying at home, flies in the face of her previous policies. Is she a populist or not? Is her populism from the heart, or a charade? Consider The Economist on Why Grandpa Wen has to care points out Wen Jiabao did all the things Arroyo’s defenders say are irrelevant and unnecessary -if she’d never tried to be a populist in the first place, maybe.

Returning to the theme explored by Steve Rood, in addition to SMS, emails, too, kept people up to date on the discouraging situation in Iloilo and elsewhere. The McVie Show, Season Seven publishes the sad unfolding of the confirmation of a friend’s death while mountainclimbing; and the interweb’s full of people recounting sad snippets of news. For example, missionaries such as anascomissions.org ,

Received another email from Nate, Calvary missionary in Iloilo. He said the waters in the city are starting to recede but now areas affected by the flood are covered in mud. Also food is scarce. The families we work with say they do not have any food at all. Supplies at the stores and markets are very low and price gouging has begun. There is some government food relief available so right now the staff is looking at how our street children and their families might qualify for some of that relief.

tenForty writes of how good intentions can be trumped by logistics:

We hastily made arrangements to get some funds through to our brethren on Monday, but when I informed Ranie, our contact in Iloilo City, she SMSed that “…water still high, no bank, no electricity, no (drinking) water, the whole city is floating.” She also mentioned that the windows of her apartment had blown away, and the church was being used as a refugee centre…

And then she also mentioned that they had run out of food.

Today, the situation is a little better, but still grim, and the bank finally opened. 90% of the homes and churches we support are gone, the people homeless.

Wrote coffee talks,

I was stranded at our office for the whole duration. I saw people sleeping in the mall… Texting like crazy… and crying… but some… were just in disbelief… Nobody expected things to escalate into unimaginable proportions… I heard dries all over the place… People were trying to sleep despite the fact that they were uneasy about the situation at hand… I guess, this just goes to show that once you accept stuff as they are, you begin to calm down…

During the wee hours of the morning, we went up to the cooling tower of SM Iloilo, just above our office… and we took a look at the situation at hand… It was heartbreaking, no contest… the view was just plain dark and grimy water… People were literally ON the TREES flashing lights and waiting to be rescued… Some homes that were there were now missing… and the flood, kept on coming…

It’s a Word Dance tells several stories, including her own:

I will tell you more by telling by friends’ stories.

Pamela is from Pavia. Pavia was greatly affected by the typhoon. Their house was covered by water and there was no dry things inside it. Worst, her 8 month old nephew got lost. Lost in site when the water came rushing inside there house. She was depressed. The whole family was.

Eli is from Kalibo. He can’t calm down due to pressure that his family hadn’t contacted him yet. We were staying in his house here in Iloilo hoping to help out each other. But the moment, his relatives contacted him, he broke down and cry. His house was rushed by flood. All their properties including car and appliances were damaged. His dad was sick when the typhoon came in. He was worried about them but glad they were okay. Still, he was worried how to bring everything they had back.

Julie is also from Kalibo. She was the last one to be contacted by her family. It ends up when she called her mom and ask about the situation. They were all okay but there house was submerge in water including their car. Material things was okay to lose but the work you put into it was crashing.

Moshe is my boyfriend. He is from Pototan. I never knew something was bothering him because he was acting he was okay. He still have time to laugh with me. His reason was to avoid me from being worried. Their house was sliced in half. No appliances were saved. Thankfully, his mom and younger sister vacated the place before is crashed. But the house they stayed in, the house of his Tita Sol was also submerged in water. Luckily again, they have a second floor. Bubbles, his rottweiller drowned.

Me and my sister had an interesting story. We are here together in our boarding house in Iloilo while my mom and dad is in Pototan. My tita’s house there collapsed and my lola’s house was flooded. They evacuated in Mina Church for the night. I was slightly worried for them because I know they can take good care of each other but what worried me most id m younger brother, who is in Roxas City and with our helper. I haven’t receive a news from him.

exploreIloilo.com links to photos and videos of the flood. A side-story is that viewers are irate over the focus of media coverage primarily being on the capsized Princess of the Stars. Appeals have been made on this blog and elsewhere, for equal time to be devoted to places like Iloilo -and if Iloilo residents are upset, residents of Aklan, in turn, are upset that only Iloilo is in the news.

Concerning Aklan, see American Living, Filipina Thinking (found through The Accidents of My Life) who managed to stitch together a report on her native province in Aklan and Typhoon Frank, including this timeline of events:

Friday, June 22, evening — People are preparing for the food festival in honor of San Juan Bautista. Radio said it was Signal No1. It started to rain hard, so people just went home.

Saturday, June 23

2am — Heavy rains. Strong winds. Now it was Signal #3. Undang once again.

5am-6am — Ceiling and rooftops blown away. Aklan River was rising.

9am-10am — Kalibo proper is starting to be flooded, waist deep. Strong currents and non-stop raining. People hold on to bamboos for floatation. To move from one place to another, people jump from rooftops to rooftops. Houses in lower C Laserna are gone.

3pm-4pm — Wind stopped. Water is at 7-8 feet, Kalibo Shopping Center now submerged. The entire Kalibo town was quiet, other than the sound of the falling rain.

7pm-8pm — In the dead of the night, with no lights nor electricity, people are screaming ‘tabang’. Children wailing, women crying. Some people, who owned 2-floor houses, refused to accept their neighbors for the fear that the added weight may collapse the house.

Sunday, June 24

Sunrise — People got out of their shelters to see water and mud, tricycles upside down, boulders everywhere, dead pigs. It was like a scene from a B-rated zombie movie. First thing people looked for: DRINKING WATER.

6am — People start to walk to the market for food. They walked in 2-feet mud. People lined up to buy bread (plastic still covered with mud), canned goods, medicine. Prices skyrocketed: rice that was PhP80 is now PhP150 (good for one day for a family of 6), candles 3 pcs for PhP100, tricycle trip PhP 1000 to-fro Kalibo Airport.

Everyone was in quiet shock, saying a low ‘kamusta’, and moved on to go to where their family & shelter was.

Everyone salvaged what was left. They tried to dry, using water from the rain, their clothing and beddings. Furnitures (tables, chairs) are damaged but usable. Magsig-magsig anay kuno, ah

The Provincial Hospital is damaged too, and the new PhP 45 Million CT Scan equipment is all lost. Where do the sick go? Stay at home and hope infection (feet are scraped and punctured due to walking on mud) doesn’t spread. That is why the corpse are now lying and embalmed at the town plaza, for we don’t have a hospital.

From aileenation (reposted from another blog, but no link to the original), another look at conditions, as of Sunday:

These are some of the updated news from Kalibo, Aklan:

The memorial hospital naabot ng baha at putikan hanggang second floor.

Early morning ng Sunday 10 feet strong current flooded the entire town, reached the second floor/level of big houses….okay lang kung lahat ng mga tao dun ay merong second floor ang mga bahay. they dont have anything to eat there, walang mapagbilhan ng pagkain, even drinking water wala na din…tubig ulan ang iniinom nila.

Currently, hanggang tuhod and putik sa buong town ng kalibo, madaming barangays ang nawala na sa mapa ng kalibo, even yung bliss community wala na…bubong na lang ng bhay ang nakikita. Just now, 115 dead bodies ang nasa plaza ng Kalibo…they don’t know the number of people died and missing.

Egg prices to rise as typhoon hits ‘egg basket’ adding to inflation.

CBCP urged to formally object to Enrile as envoy to Vatican. On what grounds? There is no Concordat between the Vatican and the Philippines that grants the insular hierarchy a say on who gets appointed ambassador; and it seems the Secretariat of State has accepted the Philippine appointment. This is as cut-and-dried as a case of the separation of Church and State gets. Cristina Ponce-Enrile ought to go to Rome.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

158 thoughts on “When all you can do is text

  1. Up N student,

    “The fact is that most overseas Filipinos are taxed in their host countries, and the double taxation that they suffered for many years before RA 8424 had cut deeply into their income. Our overseas Filipinos should be the ones to decide how to manage their own income. Thankfully, and it is a credit to our overseas Filipinos’ sense of civic and family duty, as well as their love of country, many have decided to reinvest their income in the Philippines through regular remittances, which in turn have helped drive economic growth and increase household savings here,” the Secretary added: http://www.dfa.gov.ph/news/pr/pr2004/apr/pr274.htm

    while the peso remains strong, it is not a good time to reverse the double taxation agreement/policy

    “The drop in net OFW remittances will in the short term have a major negative impact on consumer confidence, a primary driving force of the economy. Shopping malls and their suppliers, for instance, will suffer. With the dollar buying less, the Philippines, just now experiencing modest growth in visitors, will become a less attractive travel destination.”

    .” On a macro level, there could be a significant drop in personal consumption expenditures and a consequent softening of GDP growth. The heralded Philippine GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent projected for 2007 falls in the shadow of Asian region’s expected expansion of 7.6 percent. The drop in personal consumption expenditures could bring the country deeper into the shadow.”

  2. with less taxation both OFW and residents will result to an increase in individual’s disposable income. this will connect to
    cvj’s comment:
    “Civil Society, therefore, is no longer identified by a set of core values, rights and responsibilities but by levels of access to, and participation in, ‘opportunities’ in the mainstream economy”

    anthony scalia said on cvj’s blog… “An economic problem requires an economic solution, not a political solution.”
    A political solution is only concerned on distributing wealth. An economic solution focuses on creating wealth. All Pinoys must engage in a form of wealth creation.”

    In my opinion, to create wealth.. one must have capital, a little bit of capital. it can be coming from increases in disposable income. income that can be re-distributed to the local economy , creating competition of goods and services in the small business sector and combine it with lower interest rates on borrowing. the growing numbers of small businesses in our country is our engine for growth.

  3. Leytenian (at 7:16 am), just to clarify, that excerpt you quoted (“Civil Society, therefore…”) is not my own words but an excerpt i quoted from Cameron & Palan’s book which is the basis the blog entry i referenced above (at June 27th, 2008, 6:12 pm). My reading of the authors’ passage is that it was meant to be a criticism of Civil Society’s turn away from values, rights and responsibilities.

  4. leytenian,

    “In my opinion, to create wealth.. one must have capital, a little bit of capital. it can be coming from increases in disposable income. income that can be re-distributed to the local economy , creating competition of goods and services in the small business sector and combine it with lower interest rates on borrowing. the growing numbers of small businesses in our country is our engine for growth.”

    i hope all discussions focus on wealth creation. (i know i can’t dictate the direction this blog) ‘patalsikin na now na’ is never a solution.

  5. “A political solution is only concerned on distributing wealth. An economic solution focuses on creating wealth.”-leytenian

    “i hope all discussions focus on wealth creation.”-anthony scalia

    A politician solution is somehow different. They run for public office (ex. congressman), kowtow to malacanang for maximum wealth creation…wealth distribution is minimal.

  6. Representative Biazon
    I always get this urge to hang myself every time I need something from a government office. One has to go through line A in order to receive forms, in order to go to line B so somebody can staple the forms. Line C is for somebody to circle all the capital letters, until you can make your way to line Z who has the ONLY guy trained and qualified enough to receive cash before they CLOSE shop for lunch. This retarded and inefficient “System” to government services forces the need for fixers and bribes. When business owners have to take bribe money into account with business plans, something must be wrong. Would the formation of a “Department of Efficiency and Common Sense” be in order?
    Does the Congress recognize this as a problem, and if so how are you going about with a solution?

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