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Rolly Leaves People Dead; #NasaanAngPangulo Trends While Other Netizens Seek Prayers For Phl

Rolly Leaves People Dead; #NasaanAngPangulo Trends While Other Netizens Seek Prayers For Phl
Village officials carry the body of a victim in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Rolly in Barangay 7, San Francisco, Guinobatan, Albay. The fatality was reported to have been buried alive due to lahar and mud that flowed from the nearby Mayon Volcano. Photo by Edd Gumban, The Philippine STAR

Super Typhoon Rolly left at least 10 people dead and three other missing as it pummeled Albay on Sunday, Nov. 1, according to an initial government report.

More than 300 houses were buried under volcanic rocks and mud flows from Mayon Volcano in severely hit Albay province in the Bicol region, Rep. Zaldy Co of the Ako Bicol party-list said.

“Several people believed to be buried alive,” the party-list reported in a statement accompanying photos of the destruction.

Storm surges hit some coastal towns, while rivers overflowed and dikes were destroyed, submerging several villages in Bicol.

The dead and missing were all in Bicol, including nine in Albay, the Office of Civil Defense said.

Earlier, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported seven deaths amid the onslaught of Rolly. There was one death each reported in the municipalities of Daraga, Guinobatan, Oas, Polangui and Tabaco City. There were two deaths in the municipality of Malinao.

The NDRRMC said they are still awaiting details on the cause of deaths for each of the incidents.

On Sunday afternoon, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara said they accounted for four deaths, three of which were due to a broken dike. This includes a five-year-old child who he said might have been swept away by the heavy current.

The other person was killed due to a fallen tree.

Bichara disclosed they have also noted lahar flows from Mayon Volcano, which he likened to an avalanche.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology earlier warned that Rolly was expected to generate lahar in the active volcanoes of Mayon, Pinatubo and Taal.

Rolly could generate post-eruption lahar from Mayon Volcano in Albay and streamflows may occur along Miisi, Binaan, Anoling, Quirangay, Maninila, Masarawag, Muladbucad, Nasisi, Mabinit, Matan-ag and Basud Channels.

For Mount Pinatubo, lahars are likely to occur in the upper to middle reaches of the Sto. Tomas-Marella and Bucao River systems.

As of Sunday noon, around 96,000 families or more than 346,000 people were in evacuation centers in the Bicol region. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the NDRRMC said about a million people were evacuated due to the coming super typhoon.

#PrayForThePhilippines, #NasaanAngPangulo

American actor and producer Mark Ruffalo tweeted, “Pray for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines then get ready to send donations” on Sunday. Other netizens also sought prayers for the Filipinos affected by the super typhoon, which could reach 31 million as reported by the NDRRMC.

The United Nations (UN) and humanitarian partners in the Philippines mobilized humanitarian teams to support the government in helping communities affected by Rolly.

The European Union also said it is ready to assist in recovery efforts. “Our solidarity with the Filipino people as typhoon #RollyPh batters the country, particularly Bicol region,” the EU posted on Twitter. “The resiliency, strength, and courage of the Filipinos will persevere in these trying times.”

UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez stressed “we have not waited for the landfall of this typhoon” to take action.

“UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs (non-government organizations) are already working with relevant (government) departments and offices, Philippine Red Cross, and with private sector groups to coordinate our efforts to support the conduct of rapid needs assessments and swiftly assist the most vulnerable people caught in the typhoon’s destructive path,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez noted all the teams observed movement restrictions as well as health and safety protocols due to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Philippine Red Cross emergency response teams assisted authorities in search and rescue efforts and in providing immediate relief to hard-hit communities as the disaster unfolded.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is coordinating with humanitarian sectors and is mapping humanitarian and development partners in affected areas to support impact assessments.

The International Organization for Migration is providing support to the authorities in the management of evacuation centers while the World Food Programme has received a request for logistical support to food distributions.

“The people of the Philippines are incredibly resilient, but this is a very dangerous typhoon and I call on everyone to follow the guidance being given by the authorities,” Gonzalez said.

“We must prepare for the worst and be ready to save lives, while putting trust in the effectiveness of years of close collaboration on emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction efforts such as the timely evacuation of people in low lying areas. In the next hours and days we must collectively do everything in our power to save lives and ensure that no one is left behind,” he added.

President Duterte did not address the nation and was also not present during the first high-level briefing held by the government on the morning that Rolly, the strongest storm on Earth this year, made landfall and tropical storm Siony entered the Philippine area of responsibility.

#NasaanAngPangulo” and “ABS-CBN” became trending topics on Twitter as Filipino social media users took issue with the absence of any word from the President and the lack of information reaching far-flung areas that used to be serviced by ABS-CBN Corp. prior to the shutdown of its free-to-air operations.

Duterte last appeared in public on Oct. 27 to deliver an address about the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic that ended up focusing on the creation of a so-called mega task force against corruption.

Critics noted that on Aug. 17, Duterte had said: “Ang isang leader would always stay where the crisis is. Hindi ka dapat maglagalag kung may problema ang bayan (A leader would always stay where the crisis is. You should not wander around when the country is having problems).”

Napakababa naman ang tingin ninyo sa akin kung ganu’n. Well, be that as it may, hindi po ako ganu’n just to disabuse your mind (You must see me as someone so low if that is the case. Well, be that as it may, I am not like that, just to disabuse your mind),” he said.

On Saturday, Oct. 31, former special assistant to the President and now Sen. Bong Go said Duterte was in Mindanao. On Sunday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte would fly back to Manila on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Naka-monitor po siya at any time naman po iyon, ang ating Pangulo ay puwedeng bumalik sa Maynila at kung papayagan po ng magandang weather na po ano, makakalipad po ang eroplano (He is monitoring the situation and any time our President can go back to Manila when the plane is permitted to fly by good weather),” Go said during the #LagingHandaPH virtual briefing on Oct. 31.

Roque, in person, presided over the briefing at the NDRRMC office at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Sunday, Nov. 1, several hours after the super typhoon smashed the island province of Catanduanes and lashed the Bicol Region.

When Roque asked Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara what help they would need, the local official replied: “Wala na ’yung bagyo sa ’min at umiikot na ang lahat (The typhoon has been gone from our province and we have been going around).”

At this point, “meron na kaming early reports, dalawang casualty (we already have early reports of two casualties),” Bichara told Roque.

As Jesuit priest Jboy Gonzales pointed out the night before: “Naghahanda na ang Bicol. ’Di namin kailangan ang briefing kung bagyo na (Bicol has been preparing. We do not need the briefing when the storm is here).”

Lumilipad na ang mga bubong, kahoy at iba pa. Anong akala mo sa bagyo, opening number ng briefing niyo (The roofs, wood and others are already flying. What do you think of the storm, an opening number for your briefing)?” Gonzales asked.

It was not clear why Duterte could not join the department and agency heads, even by way of videoconferencing that has been the norm in the time of the pandemic.

Physically present at the meeting were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Social Welfare Undersecretary Felicisimo Budiongan, NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

Need for briefings

Former Commission on Elections commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal stressed that “at this time, there should be regular briefings already by the national government… explaining to the public what should be done to prepare, what’s being done to get people ready. Not only for those affected, but also for those who are scared, worried and need advice.”

Former Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog compared Duterte’s lack of presence to the actions of Vice President Leni Robredo, who hails from the Bicol Region.

The Office of the Vice President said it had distributed food packs in Camarines Sur before the super typhoon arrived. Robredo retweeted a Jan. 14, 2011 post by her husband, the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo, saying: “Preparedness is not about mobilizing for heavy rains and typhoons. It’s incorporating ‘disaster proofing’ in our local development plans.”

“Imagine, VP Leni was up all night sending information in her social media saying she cannot sleep because of the (super typhoon) and still continue to contact media (and) emergency response teams to be alert. While ’yung iba dyan, kahit pre-record[ed] script, wala (The others do not even have a pre-recorded script),” Mabilog said.

Some social media users also compared the government’s response to Rolly to the way the previous administration handled Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

ABS-CBN’s provincial audiences in the dark

Compounding the problem was the absence of the round-the-clock news coverage of the ABS-CBN Regional Network Group, which television viewers in the Bicol Region rely upon.

The conglomerate was forced to dissolve the division and lay off thousands of workers after the House of Representatives legislative franchises committee voted 70-11 to deny its application for the renewal of its franchise. Meanwhile, it is currently able to lease the airtime of A2Z Channel 11 only for its soap operas and entertainment programs.

Congressmen cited their personal gripes and ignored the findings of administrative agencies that found ABS-CBN to be compliant with regulations. Duterte, in his penultimate State of the Nation Address on July 27, proclaimed himself to be a “casualty” of ABS-CBN.

Thus, ABS-CBN’s news coverage could only be in accessed channels Kapamilya Channel and ABS-CBN News Channel on cable and its social media pages – leaving in the dark the communities that only its free-to-air television and radio operations could reach.

ABS-CBN reporter Jacque Manabat lamented: “Walang malakas na bagyo sa ABS-CBN Regional Network Group, kaso wala na sila (There is no storm too strong for ABS-CBN Regional Network Group, but now they are gone).”

Larrazabal said: “You know what could have helped disseminate information about the incoming storm and how to get ready for it? @ABSCBNNews. But they were denied a franchise… So now many people are in the dark…”

“Call a spade a spade. @ABSCBNNews is needed by the country despite their shortcomings. Nobody’s perfect, anyway. And we should rise above political differences to serve our people better. Now is the time for unity and solidarity,” Dr. Tony Leachon said.

Journalism professor Danilo Arao of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication underscored that crippling ABS-CBN to the point that it had to shut down its Regional Network Group was the “Duterte legacy.”

“ABS-CBN used to be the only TV station that reached certain areas of the country. Those who claim that there still exists thousands of news media organizations conveniently forget the usefulness of the ABS-CBN Regional Network Group,” Arao said.

Dr. Joey Hernandez said his mother in Legazpi City, Albay would not have even become aware that Signal No. 5 had been raised there “kung hindi ko pa sinabi habang sinasalanta sila ng bagyo (if I did not tell them while they were being battered by the typhoon).”

Madaming walang radyo. Madaming walang internet. Umaasa sa free TV (Many have no radio. Many have no internet. Relying on free TV),” he said.

State of calamity in Cavite

The province of Cavite has been placed under a state of calamity due to the onslaught of Rolly.

Gov. Jonvic Remulla said the state of calamity was promulgated under the Provincial Board Resolution No. 1618-2020. Cavite was put under Signal No. 4.

Almost 5,000 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been deployed to aid in government response efforts for Rolly.

AFP chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said a total of 4,860 personnel were deployed in joint task forces that were activated in the National Capital Region, Southern and Northern Luzon commands, and Central Visayas.

The PNP and the Philippine Coast Guard were also placed on full alert to help the people affected by Rolly.

Duterte monitoring

Duterte has been monitoring the situation in areas hit by Rolly and has ordered agencies to help affected communities, Malacañang said as critics questioned his absence during the government’s first high-level meeting on the typhoon.

Roque said Duterte, who has been in Davao City since Oct. 21, was scheduled to return to Manila on Tuesday. The President was also expected to deliver a public address on the typhoon either on Sunday or today, Nov. 2.

“The President has been monitoring and he has ordered us to hold a press briefing. We will be with all secretaries of agencies that are providing help to our countrymen,” Roque said during the meeting at the NDRRMC office at Camp Aguinaldo.

“The President ordered us to hold this meeting in NDRRMC to ensure that all the needs of our countrymen who were affected by the typhoon would be provided immediately. All secretaries are on call, especially the heads of departments involved in the giving of assistance,” he added.

Roque maintained that the President was updated on the situation in affected areas.

“He is not unreachable. He has been monitoring and continues to give us instructions. As I said, we are arranging the address of the President any time either today (Nov. 1) or tomorrow (Nov. 2),” Roque said.

Roque assured the public that the government has resources to help people who lost their livelihood because of the typhoon. He noted that the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act allocated funds to the emergency employment program Tulong Panghanapbuhay Para sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD).

“DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) can provide help to those who lost their jobs because of the typhoon. I’m sure a lot of TUPAD funds will be distributed because we need to clean the roads and to help the areas ravaged by Rolly,” the Palace spokesman said.

Roque said officials of the Office of the President are determining what funds could be released to assist typhoon-hit areas. He also urged people in areas battered by Rolly to cooperate with authorities and to proceed to evacuation centers.

The government, Roque added, has also set suggested retail prices to prevent spikes in the prices of basic goods. – With Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago