“Nasaan ang Pangulo?”

This is a long post. As some of you may know, I only sleep four hours at night. It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed. Four hours later–whoop!–I’m awake. (OK, you didn’t know that. Now you do. Please spare me your medical advice.)

What do I do when I wake up? Sometimes I read a book, other times I try to make sense out of life. So here I am, making sense out of life at 1:53 in the morning of Tuesday, November 3, in the aftermath of Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni). One of the biggest news so far is on the “missing president.”

As always, the issue has brought the political divide of the nation to the forefront. Allow me to provide a simple breakdown of the responses:

Those adoring his administration responded as expected. The more bone-headed among them challenged the critics by asking questions like, “Eh kung andiyan ba si Digong, mawawala ba ang bagyo?” “Nasaan naman si “useless” OVP Leni?” (I will add a sic to that last statement since I know Leni to be the VP, not the OVP. She’s not her office, get it?) “Eh nung panahon ni Pnoy, puro press release, libu-libo naman ang namatay; kay Digong konti lang ang namatay. Diba?” I find it funny that those who asked, “Eh kung andiyan ba si Digong, mawawala ba ang bagyo?” perhaps unwittingly confirmed that he was neither there nor needed.(My personal opinion: Those who take this route of interaction should be lumped together with the more fanatical anti-president members of society. They should all be locked up in a room where they can throw verbal feces at each other to their hearts’ content; the rest of us love our IQs.)

The more level-headed responded by saying that he was monitoring the situation from Davao. (The president goes back to his hometown for the weekends.) I wish I could say more but there really isn’t anything more to say. Presidential Spokesman Roque’s statement, “Linggo naman yun,” is so “out there” it doesn’t even deserve more than a one-time mention. (What was he talking of exactly? Was it the president’s absence or the timing of the briefing?) He was monitoring the situation from Davao? I’ll take your word for it.

Those critical of the administration used the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo to express their disappointment at the president’s absence, particularly from the “1st high level briefing on the super typhoon.” There were the usual insults, calls for his resignation, and sadly, even death wishes from the mentally obnoxious.

The more level-headed simply called for command responsibility and accountability–the president is the leader of the nation and his presence was needed. At the very least his presence should inspire the nation that whatever else the storm may bring, he and his men were on top of the situation and could be relied on to do their job. Also, we live in the twenty-first century. Given that he was in Davao, couldn’t he have at least joined through online means? His face on a monitor is better than his face nowhere to be seen. I would have cheered if the president appeared on nation-wide TV before the arrival of the typhoon and said something like, “My fellow Filipinos, rest assured we are here; we are on top of the situation.” No rambling, just straight to the point assurance.

My takeaways:

I guess it’s a sign of maturity that we don’t react unnecessarily and allow our emotions to get the better of us. Similar to the case of the Pope’s so-called support for gay marriage, we have to make sure we react to the contents of the story and not react to the media’s reaction. (Is that re-reaction?) It also pays not listening to or reading only one source of info.

The government (I abhor too many acronyms; I’ll just use “government”) appears to have been more prepared now than the time Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. While the numbers may still go up, the latest updates pegged the death toll at sixteen, with two million affected in twelve regions (mb.com.ph). I understand many LGUs were also up to task and were a big factor in weathering the storm, no pun intended.

My feeling on the matter: I honestly don’t think the Incumbent’s presence or absence mattered much in that area. To his detractors, whether he likes it or not, his so-called absence just showed that his government, with the right people in place, can run without him. Or we can take the high road and credit him for putting the right people in place. I’ll take the high road, thank you very much.

Now that the storm is gone, all eyes will be on the rehabilitation of the affected areas. Will we have a repeat of the Haiyan fiasco, where billions donated by concerned countries were allegedly wasted? I focus on this because the rehab is something we can control, unlike the typhoon. This is where we can and should be vigilant as it is easy for cash and kind to be diverted. Cash more than kind, since who wants another dozen cans of sardines, right? (That’s what I got from our barangay during the COVID heyday, by the way. Not that I’m complaining.)

Let me add to the prayer list from a previous post: Let us pray that the Lord will direct the rehab–that he will move in the hearts and hands of those in authority and those delegated with the rehab efforts–so that the help needed will reach those in need of help. Let us pray for the greatest of them to the least of them that they will not succumb to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life and instead love and concern for neighbor will prevail.

Pray that President Duterte and his administration will have an increased sense of accountability. Public servants can never have too much accountability. While I acknowledge that actions do speak louder than words, words do still matter.

We can only imagine what those most affected by the typhoon must be going through. Knowing that they only have so much to go around, pray that they will be able to rebuild their lives. I will repeat, let us help where and when we can.

And let this sink in, folks: Nasaan ang Pangulo? He was right where God in his sovereign wisdom put him.

Blessings, all!

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