By TYRONE A. VELEZ
DAVAO CITY–President Benigno Aquino III’s national day of prayer for calamity survivors drew criticisms from groups saying “action” and “leadership”, not prayers are needed to help survivors.
The President called the event at Malacañang grounds Monday with religious leaders from the Catholic, Protestant, Iglesia ni Cristo, Islam and indigenous groups and with government officials.
But a group of Typhoon Yolanda survivors called Tindog (Stand) People’s Network in a statement said prayers are not only needed in Eastern Visayas, and instead called for action.
“It is not enough to lead the nation in prayer, the government of BS Aquino must also show leadership in the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the Visayas,” their statement said, further quoting the Bible that “‘faith without works is dead’ and that prayer without action does not save lives.”
Tindog, which comprised more than 300 families from Samar and Leyte residing in Manila, berated government’s slow response to help people hit by the strongest storm in history.
While Aquino during his prayer said the calamities such as Yolanda made people resilient, Tindog said government help has been slow.
“Yolanda hit the country more than two months ago but the government has been very slow in reaching out to all typhoon-affected communities. Aid is arriving in trickles and basic services are still non-existent in many villages,” Tindog said.
While Malacañang took swipe at critics and challenged them to hold prayers and take concrete action instead of marching in the streets, the human rights group Hustisya said Aquino should be the one taking up his own challenge.
“Concrete actions will not come down from heaven. Instead of downplaying protests, Malacañang should answer what are their concrete steps in addressing the grievances of the people,” said Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general.
Both Tindog Network and Hustisya offered their own prayers for survivors of Yolanda.
“We pray that those in power who pass on the blame to the victims, who do not render justice to them, and who make the people suffer from their incompetence and injustice, be made accountable. We pray that they better go,” said Hustisya’s Guevarra.
“Actually, we have been praying everyday since the disaster struck the country. We are praying so that our leaders will be more responsible and compassionate when they carry out their duties as public servants. We are praying so that God will punish the evil doers: greedy polluters, politician looters, and opportunistic individuals,” Tindog People’s Network elaborated.
The youth group AnakBayan held in a rally in (Mendiola) and also in Davao on Monday, which condemned Aquino’s rehabilitation for Leyte as a “sham that will not benefit the poor.”
AnakBayan chair Vencer Crisostomo criticized government’s policy of a “no-build zone” in Tacloban saying this would be “an excuse to clear communities for the sake of the planned (Tacloban City) Economic Zone.”
Crisostomo said investors and corporations would benefit from this policy and not the residents.
Meanwhile, the Davao City Chamber of Commerce President Antonio dela Cruz believed that resiliency of people and support in agriculture is key to helping survivors, pointing to their experience in planting golden crops such as corn, cassava, coffee and coconut in Pablo-affected areas in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
The Department of Trade and Industries Davao Region reported domestic sales last 2013 reached P942.78 million or 18 percent above its target of P800 million. The agency reported agriculture as one of the major contributors to the sales.
“We are not free from calamities, Davao region is just resilient in overcoming all these calamities like in Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte. That’s one good thing. And investors can see that,” he told Davao Today.
The militant youth Anakbayan however, slammed seizing business opportunities for calamity-stricken areas.
“The Aquino administration’s emphasis on the Public-Private Partnership as part of rehabilitation efforts is enough to send alarm bells ringing. We fear that rehabilitation in Yolanda-stricken areas will simply be turned into new investment opportunities for giant corporations, especially foreign ones” said Crisostomo.
Crisostomo demanded that government should instead release financial assistance to survivors to support their livelihood.
The youth leader said the appointment of former Senator Panfilo Lacson as ‘rehabilitation czar’ was made because of Lacson’s close ties to business tycoons who are linked to Aquino.
AnakBayan also berated the bloated budget on rehabilitation for Eastern Visayas at pegged at P361 billion when the total amount of damages was estimated at P36 billion. They also hit the building of overpriced bunkhouses. (davaotoday.com)Anakbayan, calamity, national day of prayer, prayers, tacloban, tindong, vencer, Yolanda