When a candidate stakes his chances in the presidential arena, he does so with full knowledge that he will not run government on the singular platform of peace and order. He will also have to address various issues, including calamities which are a regular occurrence in a Filipino’s life cycle.
The Philippines sits right in the belly of the typhoon belt of the Pacific. According to the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC), this means that the Philippines is visited by an average of 20 typhoons per year, five of which are bound to be destructive.
Being in the “Pacific Ring of Fire” makes the Philippines vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The ADRC notes that its location and environment render it susceptible to tsunami, sea level rise, storm surges, and the extreme conditions of flooding and drought.
Last Tuesday evening, President Rodrigo Duterte went on a 20-minute rant against Vice President Leni Robredo against the backdrop of extreme conditions suffered by the people in Cagayan and Isabela after the onslaught of typhoon “Ulysses”.
This came after the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo trended in social media amid calls to rescue residents trapped in their own houses surrounded by floodwater and mud. Netizens understandably cried out for updates on the President’s response to the ongoing calamity.
Providing contrast was Robredo who immediately supplied information and coordinated calls for help through her Facebook and Twitter page.
Duterte accused Robredo of questioning his absence and making unauthorized directives to the uniformed personnel. The Vice President has denied the claim and has shown that the President was reacting to false allegations relayed by his own secretaries.
But as his tenure turns to its final year the President will find himself increasingly at the receiving end of questions regarding his choice of station, given that he prefers Davao City to his official residence in the national capital. The official residence is a matter of law.
In fact, as this is being written, some members of the Cabinet are in Davao to meet with the President for his weekly conversation with the nation.
The President has been doing this since the COVID pandemic struck, but returns to seclusion, away from the public eye, in between those camera appearances. This even led to a Supreme Court petition asking for the public disclosure of the state of his health.
Metro Manila is at the heart of the cardiovascular system of the Philippines. Aside from the national government agencies forming the executive department, this is where the other major branches of government are located, i.e., the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
The go-to agencies in cases of national emergencies – the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council – are all headquartered at the national capital region.
The President is the commander-in-chief and wields supreme command and control over the military. His office is at the helm of the NDRRMC.
In the early part of his term the President would go home to Davao Thursday evening or early Friday and come back to Manila Sundays or Mondays. Of late, however, he has been observed to be spending more office days in his hometown.
Is this arrangement a non-factor, or does it strike right into the core issue of accessibility and mobility in cases of national emergencies?
Sadly, the President’s angry riposte to the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo is hardly the response that satisfies the imposing requirements of transparency and accountability – the sworn duty of those who hold high public office.
What is essentially a public clamor for government action in the face of distress has been turned into a partisan ploy for sympathy and antagonism. Is the truth not the simplest response?/WDJ