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MANILA, Philippines – Much has been said about a controversial meeting between Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, held in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
A video recording of the meeting, which was uploaded a day after Romualdez told a Congressional committee that national government refused to help the city, has made the rounds on social media. But a shorter, 18-second clip, is going around faster. In the clip, Roxas tells Romualdez: "You are a Romualdez, the president is an Aquino."
Roxas called the "edited" video misleading and malicious, and accused the Romualdez camp of releasing the video to cover up the mayor's own shortcomings.
The government has been under fire for its relief operations after Yolanda, not only in Tacloban, but in other areas devastated by the strong storm. Weeks after the storm, Romualdez and President Benigno Aquino III were caught in a word war after Aquino hit the Tacloban government for its lack of preparation.
Aquino defended Roxas, saying that in the division of tasks, it was decided that Romualdez would lead in the distribution of relief goods and the normalization of the city. National government would be in charge of providing relief, spearheading cadaver recovery, establishing and maintaining peace and order, and clearing all the streets. Nothing happened, Aquino said. (READ: Aquino on Romualdez: Too many interviews, no real action)
To make sense of what really transpired and what the issues were during the Roxas-Romualdez meeting, Rappler transcribed the 43-minute video uploaded by Cito Beltran on YouTube. Check the partial transcript here:
Editor's Note: Parts of the video that are inaudible are indicated as such.
(Starts at 1:41)
Mar Roxas: It’s not just the (inaudible), it’s the function of the law and government
Roxas: The first question is, you have to… So, as of today… (inaudible)
(Skips to 3:28)
Roxas: You said you can’t function…
Alfred Romualdez: …can’t function… so, we can start functioning…
Roxas: The function of the LGU is more than just...
Romualdez: The administrator is here…
Roxas: So, how…. actually have a functioning office?
Romualdez: The department of Social Welfare…
Roxas: What exactly are you functioning...
Roxas: We’re supposed to be… we’re supposed to be… As far as the city is concerned, are you functioning? I’m talking about…
Romualdez: …crisis… logistics… it’s impossible. You cannot understand. You cannot retrieve those bodies, it’s already… people here… we haven’t been able to...
Roxas: Because since you cannot pass the resolution, the other option only is... mechanism that the national government… For the national government to take over, there has to be a reason.
Roxas: You have to understand, we’re talking very strictly. You have to understand that (want this?) The President is Aquino. He’s not… he’s… in just taking over because he does not (inaudible) anything to do… If your congressman said ‘please take over, please take over’… (inaudible)
Roxas: You’re the chairman… so, as the chairman of city… people showing up, can you function?
Roxas: We have to build a case so that… convince the President… that it’s okay to exercise his takeover… otherwise…
Roxas: For example, Ormoc… I mean… Yolanda… now, they’re starting to show up… very slowly, how we can handle this. So, you have to say here you are, and you have to take the (judgment). Because, this will now say that your legislature is not present.
Roxas: We want to formalize what is our legal situation. Everything now is de facto. It’s just how it is. We want to legalize, we want to make formal what is the situation. So, it’s up to you as the chief executive to say ‘di namin kaya.’ Usually, there is a resolution that is passed. If you can’t pass your resolution…
Roxas: You pass it Monday, okay where is it? If you cannot... fine. Are you functioning or are you not functioning? Simple lang ito. Let’s not waste…
Romualdez: What makes it illegal? If you’re now doing what you’re doing together with us…
Roxas: We need to legalize a situation.
Romualdez: What more is not legal here?
Roxas: What is not legal here is that there’s no proper recognition, there’s nor proper conferment of authorities. Authority as it stands right now, is you are the chief executive officer.
Romualdez: He’s/It’s still the President of Tacloban City. I’m just the mayor. We have a problem here and we need the help of the national government. If you want to legalize it, you step aside. You step aside if that’s the only way that we can get additional help.
Roxas: No, that’s not the legal issue here. You’re going to get all the help that’s necessary. We respect you. What we want to do is we want to legalize it. The President, he wants to legalize it. So, that in effect, nobody later on can say ‘ah the President... 4 months from now, 5 months from now, what is to prevent somebody from saying “ah hindi, inagaw lang ng pangulo ito eh.”
Romualdez: … National Disaster Reduce Management… because we’re supposed to address this situation, this problem.
Roxas: The National Disaster Law says the (inaudible) of the city. That’s the law, right? This doesn’t exist. This is all just support. Now, if you’re saying you want the National Government to do, to take over, to do this or whatever, you need to formalize. You need to formalize that. We cannot just have this usapan between you and me.
Romualdez: Ah so there must be an approval before we can accept help from outside? And before the national government can help us with… I don’t know. I’m asking.
Roxas: You’re putting words here.
Romualdez: No, I’m asking, Secretary. I’m sorry. I’m not putting words, I’m asking.
Roxas: You have to formalize and say ‘listen, we cannot do this. Can you please take over some of these functions that we are unable to meet’
Romualdez: Yes. I’ve no problem with that.
Roxas: So, can we now authorize that.
Romualdez: Yes. Be specific. No, I’m just asking. I’m just clarifying, so you know? If handling this disaster, handling now, be more specific... now the time to get back to ….. to the way before, especially…. di namin kaya yan. Pag dating namin ng mga cleaning, di na namin kaya… Now, in terms of getting to our people, talking to the barangay chairman, helping to mobilize to what? To a certain extent, maybe. Yes.
Roxas: How many…
Romualdez: Maybe siguro hundred plus. Around that. Because they’ve been going to the DSWD and they’re giving us the numbers already of how much food they need. Are they able to function in the delivery now of goods. That’s why that’s what’s happening.
Roxas: And we are getting in terms of, from the social welfare...
Romualdez: Yes. That is the mechanism there.
Roxas: Obviously… are enough.
Romualdez: There are other things. Yes. Because in terms of not having enough… (inaudible) because before, first policy was to get their names… pagkatapos the barangay officials were able to help. Their vehicles were already running, so they were able to pick up a lot of these relief goods themselves together now with the DSWD, who accompanies them in the delivery towns. That aspect, mas mabilis na. So, in terms of that. But, the retrieval... that’s the main problem. And then of course the infrastructure problem. For example (inaudible)... clearing of the way which is standard and run by other LGUs…
Roxas: So, the question is we need to legalize our informal narrations... You cannot pass a resolution. So we need a document that says ‘please take over because we cannot do this…’
Roxas: We just want to legalize this. If it’s not legalized, then okay, you’re in charge. We can’t help you. We need to legalize… about the ongoing gray areas…
Romualdez: So, if I can’t give, okay I’ll give it to you... the only… give it to you… we have to come up now with a resolution to show that you cannot function without this list, so we will take over.
Roxas: How can we pull the trigger (?). It doesn’t matter. (inaudible)
Romualdez: No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying we lack policemen…
Roxas: You cannot function.
Romualdez: Because we do not have the personnel.
Roxas: Precisely. So can you function or you cannot function. In which case, we want to legalize.
Romualdez: …resolution saying that we cannot function because these are the following things that we don’t have yet.
Romualdez: to show the public that we cannot function because
Roxas: …the question is if it’s a functional system then it will function. It’s not that you ask… it’s not… For example, how much equipment……..
Roxas: Precisely. The point is… wala… so therefore you say, we now surrender to the national government these functions… these emergency situations. We’re not here to collect your taxes, we’re not here to collect your names or data, to do your budget, no. With respect to the emergency, we want to legalize our standing here. …what we do can’t be questioned later on.
Romualdez: Specific… function…
Roxas: You need to do the letter as soon as possible… Today I was asked. Where is it? What legalizes all of your efforts, duties, and every other spending…….
Roxas: No! …today. If this is… over… in another week or in another month.
Romualdez: …specify what functions to government what we want.
Roxas: Precisely. It’s the Disaster Response. We don’t get from anything else. We’re not to involve... We are in the disaster response. So, for us to pull the trigger the set of actions... (barely audible)
Roxas: May nakita kang pumapasok sa bahay ng kapitbahay niyo, …self-defense… dahil sa kagandahang loob, minartilyo mo. Ang hinihingi lang namin isang papel that says your neighbor… na pwede gawin… since wala ko diyan, di ko kaya bantayan yung bahay ko, pinagkakaloob ko sa yo na… kung sino man pumasok sa bahay ko. Kasi sa ngayon, minartilyo namin yun, we cannot invoke self-defense…
Roxas: You make a list. Here, here, here, here… It’s not for us to tell you. Make a general statement, we’re unable to function… this and that… so on and so forth… we have exhausted the packaged goods that we’ve set aside… because in our law, that is what’s necessary.
Roxas: We cannot enfore a curfew just like that.
Roxas: It has to be… the President recognizes… the powers… the LGUs. Regional Development Council… there’s influence on Regional Directors…
Romualdez: (Inaudible) In fact, in the resolution, it’s more than obvious… Sulat lang gusto niyo di ba?
Roxas: So, just confirm whatever the... through the letter and that’s fine.
Roxas: Just write us a letter. I’m not giving you a deadline. What I’m trying to say, every day….
Romualdez: When we spoke of the state of emergency, we figured that the security problem, there’s a big difference now.
Roxas: Exactly. Because the urgency is no longer there, baka magkalimutan, kaya ayusin na natin ngayon. Linawin lang natin. Because the President, for example, as a chief executive, part of his responsibility is the other constituencies.
Romualdez: …city government doesn’t pay for their salaries… obviously if we lose this much and I request to replace this much… just like in any other normal towns
Roxas: So, my point is let’s formalize this so that we can actually legalize what is happening.
Romualdez: All I’m saying there is mga pulis namin, we have a problem with the police, that is national in nature, we’ve allotted 300. 25 reported after the calamity... It’s the responsibility of the nation to put another 300. It’s not our responsibility to go after this remaining 200…
Roxas: Therefore… you as the chief, as the head of all your councils have to say, ‘I, as a chairman of the city, say that we can no longer do this because of the following reason.’ So, that the national government can take over.
Romualdez: Bakit naman pag fiesta, papasok yung... hahawakan... di pinapansin... I don’t even request it. They come in here, they hold. They do that. Every fiesta. Whether we like it or not, they come in here. They bring in their people here and they hold it. And now they’re telling us when we lose this, I cannot request this. I cannot request this. All or nothing. Either nothing as the national take over or you don’t get augmented. If that’s true and then no choice na kami.
Roxas: (Inaudible) …augmented.
Romualdez: I was not augmented, Mr. Secretary. That’s not under… It’s different. Chief of police, it’s different... In fact, I feel bad cause the chief of police knows that there... here. When you bring police from the national, they do not know. I delivered goods 3 nights ago… I only have two men. Ibalik lang yung 300.
Roxas: …the people that are augmented, the people providing the presence here, are not from Tacloban. They’re from….
Romualdez: But even though, they’re not from here… some of the officers are still here… the chief of police is a native Taclobanon, He knows their way, it will help… rather than bringing so many people. Mr. Secretary, if you’re saying and it’s clear in my mind that it’s a gray area, that we relinquish… all or nothing… then I have no choice.
Roxas: It’s a question of recognizing what is the situation. Now, if you have problems with your fiesta, this is not the time and the place to figure out whether…
Romualdez: …if we need additional policemen… anything for the people, that’s fine with me. I understand that. I have no problem with that. You specify in the letter already, these are the following things I can… because I’m not augmenting the people that I’ve lost.
Roxas: We just wanna realize this. Write whatever letter you want. We’ll look at it. If it suffices for the right purposes, then it’s fine. If it doesn’t suffice, then we say clarify. So long as it’s not clear, then it just makes life hard for us. For example, you have 3 functions, are you saying augment it? Put the regional whatever. Whatever it is... is that what you’re saying? We only have 3 items ready. We only have 3 heavy equipment ready. And we need to do this, so please take over the tasks of... Whatever words you’re gonna put there. And everything will be responding to this Yolanda disaster. It’s tough for everybody. It’s obvious that even if you ask it in the nature of resolution, it’s not gonna come into being as a resolution. So, therefore just write the letter. “I, as Mayor, supported by the vice mayor… say these are the facts. In view of this, in order for proper response to the Yolanda disaster, we want the city government to, we want the national government to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Having said that, can we have a… before or after the meeting, we need to get a sense of how much penetration we’re getting and food delivery in each of the other… relative to the population, number of bodies, etcetera. So, we need to get that profile so we have a sense of where we are in Day 7 and how much the picture is gonna be like in Day 14…
(Romualdez whispering to Roxas.)
Roxas: we don’t have the manpower to… why is it slow… cause slow is a judgment…
– with reports from Anton Llanes-Avendano and Bea Cupin/Rappler.com