All Philippine Presidents have faced disasters and catastrophes in their terms, be this man made or natural. Manuel Quezon faced his greatest trial during the Japanese invasion. The president installed by the Japanese occupiers, Jose P Laurel faced his greatest trial trying to protect his people from the Japanese. Quezon's successor Sergio Osmena faced his by trying to rebuild the Philippines from the war's damage. The other presidents faced earthquakes, numerous typhoons and droughts and floods and they were able to rise to the occasion. And this even included Mrs Cory Aquino, who had to face the RAM coup disaster aside from the great earthquake, a big volcanic eruption and of course a series of deadly typhoons. She rose to the occasion even if many did not agree with her policies.
Why did these presidents of the Philippines rise to the occasion? Perhaps before they were elected, they realized that the Presidency is no PR cakewalk and that it involves a certain gravitas which Mrs Aquino was well acquainted with, given the tragic episodes of her life. She was known to be on her knees in prayer so many times. The presidency as Mrs Aquino knew, isn't just PR. Mrs Aquino was known to be like steel when she decides, whether these decisions were right or wrong. She took the blame gracefully.
The presidency of Mrs Aquino's son Noynoy is probably the first presidency installed into power solely by PR hype. Everything in this Aquino administration smacks of PR stunts. From its "daang matuwid" mantra to how it manages important policy decisions. It is reactive. While some of the responses were for the greater public good, some responses were not, especially its stonewalling on the proper response to the tourist bus hostage taking in the Luneta.
The signs of the problem were apparent from the earliest days of this presidential administration. The response to the Haiyan catastrophe in terms of decision making and management is nothing but a worse version of how the bus hostage taking was managed scaled up in dimensions. This administration appears not to have learned any lessons on how to handle a crisis and now it is paying for it and the people are paying a huge price for it, in terms of lives being lost
The PR spin instinct has not been lost. Mr Aquino denies the scale of lives lost. Similar large scale disasters have happened in other countries and the leaders of these countries had to break the grim news to their people, not by PR spinning it. Presidents and Prime Ministers and even Monarchs who have no political roles have the responsibility to tell it how it is, comfort the nation and make the national resolve as hard as steel, raise the morale of the people and challenge them to rebuild or if necessary to fight. Manuel Quezon had the unfathomable responsibility of telling his people this in December 1941.
Mr Aquino, the body count is rising, tell your people to be strong. You have the nerve to tell them that they were unprepared one day after the catastrophe! You also walked out of a disaster briefing and pointedly told a looting victim "that he did not die"!
Filipinos compare what happened in Japan. That is a very apt comparison in terms of damage and scale. The disaster response did take a while, about 2 to 3 days but the Prime Minister of Japan ordered his forces to respond on the same day. A few days later the government asked the Emperor give a message to his subjects, asking them to grieve, help, and rebuild. In no instance did the Prime Minister or Emperor tell the people that they were unprepared. That will be in the chambers of the Diet, where the blame game should be.
The presidency of Mr Aquino, despite whatever good it has done, will solely be judged by history on how it conducted itself in this catastrophe, as Christiane Amanpour would rightly judge. But this presidency is found wanting. And all that ride on the political roller coaster of the presidency are found wanting, including media and the military in which my father served and warned a year before his death that corruption in the Armed Forces will result in the inability of the soldiers to respond to threats that could kill people. My father was referring to armed threats to national security. But disasters now are a threat to national security. Unless and we are seeing the breakdown of society in Leyte. This will continue unless the government imposes law and order.
I will not be as harsh like Peque Gallaga in his indictment. But like Direk Peque Gallaga, I will UNFRIEND anyone in social media and face to face if anyone asks me to obey AQUINO's GOVERNMENT and criticize it later! My conscience will not allow it. I cannot reasonably take commands from a commander-in-chief who cannot effectively command because he can't decide well! This is something I learned from my ROTC training.
PR like anything media practitioners have hatched is easily washed out. It was and with it this Aquino presidency. Like Peque, as far as I am concerned for those who criticize me for criticizing Mr Aquino and his government, it's either you smash your idols or choose the welfare of the people.