Quezon City's Joy Belmonte under fire for initially not suspending classes

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte came under fire on Thursday, July 27, for initially not suspending classes in the city despite the heavy monsoon rain. It was criticism that she later said she "truly deserved."

Residents of Quezon City had been awaiting the decision of the local government at 3 am on Thursday, the time given by the QC Public Affairs Department. Belmonte was in charge of deciding, with Mayor Herbert Bautista said to be in Japan.

The announcement finally came more than an hour later – past 4 am – but it wasn't the one that many students and parents wanted to hear. The Quezon City government initially announced that there would be regular classes for all.

Belmonte, citing a 3:40 am bulletin from state weather bureau PAGASA, said in a Facebook post that "only light to moderate rains were expected over Metro Manila... with occasional heavy rains."

She added: "These rains were not predicted to be any more unusual than typical monsoon rains. On and off. Not a continuous downpour. No warning signals were issued."

According to Belmonte, based on that weather forecast and their confidence in the "city's capacity to endure and to withstand the predicted outcome," she and QC Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) acting chief Myke Marasigan decided not to suspend classes.

She said they did not want to base their decision on what other cities in Metro Manila were doing. At the time, 14 out of 17 local government units (LGUs) in the metro had suspended classes, and the only exceptions were Quezon City, Makati City, and Pasig City.

"It was a challenge for us not to be swayed by the bandwagon effect," Belmonte said. "We will only know later if we made the right decision... I expect we will be bashed to death later by the public, simply because one cannot please everyone."

The vice mayor was indeed criticized by angry social media users who had hoped for suspension of classes. Many of them pointed out that the rain was heavy, there was already flooding in parts of the city, commuting would be a major headache, and going outdoors would not be safe for students, especially young children.

#WalangPasok QUEZON CITY YOU LAZY LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHLD CARE ABOUT THE REAL SITUATION OUTSIDE ITS RAINING HEAVILY AND ITS NOT SAFE FOR KIDS — 신 하늘 (@sereni_TY0701) July 26, 2017 Dahil inutil ang Quezon City Govt. Tawagan niyo nalang mga schools niyo o websites nila... kanya kanya nang announcement #WalangPasok — Zeus_Maryosef (@pak_shet24) July 26, 2017 O baka naman VM, maaraw sainyo. share mo naman sa buong quezon city. Para tumila ulan at di mabasa mga studyante. #WalangPasok — Miza (@armizasarmiento) July 26, 2017 JOY BELMONTE, @qclocalgovt ANONG KLASENG BUBONG MERON KAYO AT TILA DI NYO MARINIG ANG PATAK NG NAPAKA LAKAS NA ULAN?? #WalangPasok PLS — NEY (@marinettedlf) July 26, 2017 nakakapunyeta ang namumuno sa quezon city. di man lang inisip ang mga commuters na estudyante #WalangPasok — raymond (@monwilab) July 26, 2017 Joy Belmonte's common sense must have been washed away by last night's downpour if she thinks declaring #walangpasok is all bandwagon effect — Dawny-Ray Reyes (@Dawny_Ray) July 27, 2017 #WalangPasok grabeee ka Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte talagang pinapasok mo pa mga bata sa q.c waterproof ba sila... — Mhavic Coronado (@thazmhavic0311) July 27, 2017

 

Belmonte later edited her Facebook post to add that "parents must exercise their judgment and prerogative to keep their children home especially those living in more risky areas."

A few hours later, she addressed "concerned citizens" in a separate Facebook post, admitting that she had "shortcomings" in this instance.

"This time I welcome all the hate and the vileness of your messages. I truly deserve it...  For the first time, I truly appreciate all of you for your nasty comments. Truly deserved. I bow to you and I admit to my weaknesses and shortcomings in this situation," Belmonte said.

"Now it is time to make amends to our children and their parents. It's time to step up for them. They deserve much better than me. They deserve a better leader," she added.

Belmonte said she should have asked "more probing questions."

"For example, from their (DRRMC) experience how accurate have the PAGASA/DOST advisories been? Is it possible for the DRRMC to delay the declaration of class suspension by an hour or so to get a better picture or must we really stick to the 4 am deadline as per national policy? Had we allowed ourselves some additional time, we would have received the later PAGASA advisories stating some new developments in the weather that they admit they did not foresee earlier. And could we also not have changed our minds given the new data?" she said.

"Sometimes we in government depend too much on data and statistics and not enough on gut feel," she added.

Given the local government's initial decision, some schools in Quezon City chose to suspend classes instead. But finally, at around 11:20 am, the DRRMO called off all classes in the city due to the nonstop rain.

The rain is due to the southwest monsoon, which is being enhanced by Tropical Storm Gorio. – Rappler.com