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Tacloban mayor takes swipe at Aquino

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez: 'Will we insult the dead, and say they died because they were unprepared?'

HITTING AQUINO. Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez says the government shouldn't 'insult the dead.' Photo by Rupert Ambil/Rappler

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez on Monday, November 18, took a swipe at President Benigno Aquino III who vented his ire on local governments that failed to prepare for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Romualdez hinted the President’s comments insult the dead.

Siguro masasabi ko, ang Metro Manila handa sa Yolanda dahil hindi sila tinamaan. Pero kami, sinong magsasabi na handa? I mean, ayoko nang patulan ‘yan,” Romualdez said in an interview with reporters Monday morning.

(Perhaps I can say that Metro Manila was prepared for Yolanda because the typhoon didn’t hit it. But what about us, how can we be that prepared? I mean, I don’t want to comment on that.)

He added, “Ano, iinsultuhin pa ba natin ‘yung mga namatay, at sasabihin natin, namatay kayo dahil hindi kayo handa?” (Now what, will we still insult the dead, and say they died because they were unprepared?)

(Watch more in the video below.)

Romualdez said this after Aquino on Sunday, November 17, said he is irked at local government units (LGUs) that failed to prepare for Yolanda.

While he didn’t name these LGUs, Aquino made an apparent reference to Tacloban City, among other places hit by Yolanda.

Aquino earlier said Tacloban seemed unprepared compared to other areas. (READ: Aquino set to visit Yolanda-battered Tacloban.)

Aquino: ‘Can’t be angry’

In contrast, Aquino said other LGUs, such as the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, fared much better. (READ: Aquino praises Guiuan execs, chides others.)

He told officials and residents of Guiuan on Sunday: “Sa ibang lugar ho, parang, hindi na lang ako magsasalita dahil bilang Pangulo n’yo bawal ho akong magalit. Maski na gaano ang inis ko, daanin ko na lang sa asim ng sikmura.”

(Now as for other places, I’d rather not comment, because as your President I’m not supposed to get angry. No matter how frustrated I am, I’ll just stay silent and keep my peace.)

He added: “Pero ano po ba ang pupuwedeng gawin, ‘di ba? Ako, may edad na rin ako, 53 ako. Hindi ko maalala kung kailan ako nakaalala ng storm signal number 4. Eh pag sinabi sa ‘yo, eto, eto ang dadaanan, eh ano pa nga ba ang gagawin mo – imbis na makinig, ‘di ba, ay kumilos? Pero sa akin na lang ho ‘yon.”

(But what should we do, right? I’m already ahead in years, I’m 53. I don’t even remember the last time we had a storm signal number 4. Now if you’re told that this is the typhoon’s path, what will you do, aside from listen – act, right? But I’ll just keep that to myself.)

(Watch more in the video below.)

Romualdez belongs to the clan of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, whose husband, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, put the President’s father in jail. The President’s father, Benigno Aquino Jr, was assassinated under the Marcos regime.

The Marcoses have also been pushing for a hero’s burial for the former president whose body remains preserved in a mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte. Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr had asked in the past that his father be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The request has remained unacted upon, and the former president has been kept in a glass-encased coffin since his body was brought home in 1993.

Romualdez said he refuses “to speculate” if the Aquino-Marcos feud is currently at play.

“I’m a simple soldier. What’s given to me, what I have is what I do. I just make do with what I have. I’ve already relayed… they’ve seen for themselves,” he said.

“The President was here two days after the typhoon, and he saw the destruction. And he saw what was happening here. It’s his call.”

‘No command center’

In his interview on Monday, Romualdez also deflected criticism that he was not at the command center during Yolanda. He said Yolanda swept the command center away.

He said it was initially based in the regional office of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“There was no command center when there was a typhoon,” Romualdez explained.

“In fact, before the typhoon, they asked a meeting at 8 o’ clock in the morning in the command center. The command center was in the regional PNP. By 8 o’ clock, there was no more command center because it was blown away by the typhoon,” he said.

The mayor added he continued to work during Yolanda.

“We were doing our rounds, our inspection. We were doing our rounds, and at that time, we were checking how the people were, what’s the condition outside. That’s what happened there,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez, however, noted he is a typhoon victim too. “I almost died, my family almost died. I lost a lot of friends, employees,” he said.

For him, this shows LGUs can’t handle every disaster alone.

“I think the procedure and the manner wherein they address disasters like this should be reviewed, put into law, and should be strengthened,” Romualdez said.

“I think it’s about time – this country is always hit by disasters – it’s about time, if they have to set up one battalion of rescuers on standby, they’re needed. We’ve been hit constantly, and we always rely on local rescuers, rescuers here, rescuers there, but we don’t really have yet a template, or a command of people with more than a thousand people, rescuers, equipment, and all that, and they’re experts in this.”

“I think with the resources of the Philippine government, we have enough to do that, and we save damage,” the mayor added. “Imagine, how much income is the national government going to lose because Tacloban now cannot function economically at the moment?” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email