Typhoon Haiyan: blaming the victims

Submitted by Barry Naylor on 19 November 2013 – 12:55pm

The Philippines government may have been slow in its response to typhoon Haiyan, but it has been extraordinarily quick in trying to put the blame on others.

First of all the desperate people who entered food stores and shopping malls after days of waiting in vain for aid to arrive were condemned by the government as looters. On November 19, the day of his arrival in the typhoon-hit city of Tacloban, President Aquino put the blame on the local government.

Human rights organisations in the Philippines say that the government’s embarrassment at its slowness in getting aid to the area led its media managers to paint desperate hungry victims as organised criminal gangs. Christina Palabay, Secretary of the Philippines based human rights organisation, Karapatan says, “This is another case of (president) Aquino’s victim-blaming.”

In the early days after the typhoon struck the government certainly seemed more efficient at getting soldiers carrying guns to the area, than soldiers carrying aid and emergency supplies. As Sebastian Rhodes Stampa from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put it from his base in Leyte, “You’ve had quite a lot of security coming in over the last couple of days, less so other things.”

Now when questioned by the BBC about why it has taken so long to get aid to victims Aquino cast the blame on the local government which happens to be controlled by a rival political family. While the president tries to evade responsibility and to point the finger at others, the people of Tacloban and other devastated areas still have a desperate need for relief.

Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the Filipino community last week was attended by different organisations to consolidate efforts from the community and individuals in the UK. We would like to share with you action points from the meeting, and how you can help: http://chrp.org.uk/2013/typhoon-relief-monitor-how-you-can-help/

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(c) Rev Canon Barry Naylor is honorary chair of the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP-UK), and Rafael Joseph Maramag is its secretary. http://chrp.org.uk