Roxas, Robredo visit Lando-hit areas: ‘No politics, just help’
NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – They made it a point to avoid wearing the trademark yellow of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), but standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II and running mate Camarines Representative Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo could not avoid political undertones during a visit to Cabanatuan City in Typhoon Lando-hit Nueva Ecija.
“Hindi po ito panahon para sa kampanya o sa pamumulitika. Ito po ay panahon para manilbihan po sa inyo at tugunan po ang inyong mga pangangailangan. Napakalungkot po ang mga pangyayari, pero maaasahan ninyo ang inyong pamahalaan ay naandiyan, tututok po, tutugon po, hindi kayo pababayaan, hindi kayo makakalimutan,” Roxas told evacuees at the San Josef National High School on Tuesday, October 20.
(This is not the time to campaign or to play politics. This is the time to serve you and address your needs. What happened was sad, but you can expect your government to be there, to focus on and to address you needs. You will not be left behind, you will not be forgotten.)
Roxas was in Cabanatuan City alongside Robredo to visit and hand out relief goods in 3 evacuation centers. Earlier in the day, the ruling LP’s 2016 tandem were in the province of Aurora, also to give out relief goods.
Roxas was in white and Robredo was in blue. Even then, it was nearly impossible to avoid references to the positions they are gunning for in 2016. Local hosts and politicians referred to the two as either “president” or “vice president.”
Relief packs brought from the LP headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City, were given away to evacuees who have been staying in classrooms since Saturday, before Lando made landfall in Aurora. Residents in barangays beside waterways saw decades-old houses swept away in the aftermath of Lando.
“Hindi naman ito tungkol sa amin, hindi naman ito tungkol sa aming kampanya. Tungkol ito sa tulong sa pagtugon sa pangangailangan, matinding pangangailangan ng mga natamaan ni Lando,” said Roxas
(This is not about us. This is not about our campaign. This is about us helping address the needs of those hit by Lando.)
He emphasized that no speeches were delivered, no campaign songs played, or campaign paraphernalia brought out during their stay in the city.
But as Roxas made his way to his second stop in Barangay DS Garcia, Noel Cabangon’s “Tribute to Tuwid na Daan,” a hymn often played in the LP’s sorties, began blasting from the speakers.
‘Old habits die hard’
Roxas had previously said they’re putting a hold on campaign efforts this week, as cities and towns recover from the onslaught of Lando. (READ:
Still, he made it a point to introduce Robredo, whose awareness numbers are still at a low of 67%, to every crowd they faced.
“Marami pang hindi nakakakilala sa akin kaya nagpapasalamat naman tayo kay [Roxas] na pag naglalakad kaming magkasabay, palagi niya akong 'pinapakilala,” she said.
(A lot of people still don’t know who I am, so I’m thankful that Roxas, when we go out together, makes it a point to introduce me.)
Disasters and calamities are familiar territory for both Roxas and Robredo.
Roxas was interior chief, putting him at the forefront of the government’s response and recovery efforts. “Old habits die hard,” Roxas wrote on a Facebook note, warning his followers of the dangers of Lando.
Lando is the first major weather disturbance to hit the country since Roxas’ announcement of his 2016 plans and his subsequent resignation from his Cabinet post.
Camarines Sur, meanwhile, is among the most disaster-prone provinces in the country. “Galing ako sa distrito na parating nasasalanta, kaya ang experience ko sa disaster talagang hands on, hindi yung galing sa papel. In fact, yun ang tinutukan ko sa first two and a half years,” said Robredo.
(I’m from a district that’s vulnerable to typhoons so my experience when it comes to disaster is hands on, not just on paper. In fact, that’s one of the things I focused on in my first two-and-a-half years).
Beyond relief goods
There was barely enough room to move in at least two barangay halls, as Roxas and Robredo handed out relief packs, an activity Robredo described as “more of a symbol than anything else.”
“It’s giving a message to the people that government is there for them. I’ve been in the local scene for so long, my husband was mayor for so long. It’s very important for local folks to see their government officials during and right after any major disaster,” said Robredo, wife of the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo, who was also mayor of Naga for almost 2 decades.
But packets of food post-disaster, said the Camarines Sur representative, is only “one part” of disaster risk management.
Robredo said she wants to look at long-term solutions, beyond the cycle of handing out relief goods to flood victims and seedlings to farmers whose crops were ruined by a storm.
Robredo is the co-author of a National Land Use Plan measure pending before Congress.
“We’re really pushing for a national land use plan para pag-aralan na talaga ano ba ang bahagi ng ating bansa ang hindi na talaga puwedeng i-devote to agriculture. Kasi everytime a disaster strikes talagang nagsusuffer ang ating mga farmers,” she told reporters in a chance interview.
(We need to find out which parts of the country should not be used for agriculture. Because every time a disaster strikes, it’s the farmers who suffer.)
Nueva Ecija’s crops, for instance, were practically wiped out after Lando.
Roxas said he doesn’t pay attention to critics who, online and offline, were quick to label their visit to Nueva Ecija and other Lando-hit areas as a campaign trick.
“I don’t worry about what they’re going to say. The other side is always going to say whatever it is the want to say, none of which will be complementary. So why should I think about what they’ll say?” he said.
Three stops, each lasting barely 30 minutes each, were Roxas and Robredo’s activities in Cabanatuan City. Frail, old women who could barely walk and children eager to help scurried away as soon as the relief packages were handed out.
“Ambag ito, tulong ito pang-stretch out ng resources kasi kulang naman talaga ang resources ng pamahalakang lokal. Nakita naman natin 'yung tuwa, 'yung pagpapalakas loob ng atin mga kababayan, okay na sa amin,” he added.
(This is our way of helping in maximizing the resources of the local government because they will always be in want. We saw the happiness, the resolve in our countrymen and that’s enough for us.) – Rappler.com
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