AQUINO GETS FLAK FOR ABSENCE AT HEIGHT OF FLOODS / VALTE REPLIES FOR PRESIDENT



PNoy: “Your government is ready for this calamity. Do not worry. We have more than sufficient resources that we can use to help you return to normal lives at the soonest possible time.”

MANILA , AUGUST 22, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) President Benigno Aquino III finally showed up in Laguna on Tuesday to address the plight of those devastated by typhoon Maring, blaming two “big companies” for contributing to the flooding in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, but not after getting flak from several people who slammed via networking sites for his non-appearance since last Monday.

Laguna, along with Cavite, are two of the hardest hit areas by the combined forces of the typhoon and the southwest monsoon, but Aquino only showed up after the storm was exiting the country’s area of responsibility.

Aquino said at least two companies are to blame for the massive flooding by impeding on the province’s waterways.

He said these companies will be charged criminally, even as he assured the public that government has enough calamity funds for the relief operations and repair and rehabilitation of affected areas.

“Your government is ready for this calamity. Do not worry. We have more than sufficient resources that we can use to help you return to normal lives at the soonest possible time,” the President said during his visit to the Dela Paz elementary school which was converted into an evacuation site in Biñan, Laguna yesterday.

In a separate interview in Mandaluyong City, Aquino said he has already ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to hasten the filing of cases against the companies which have impeded major waterways in Metro Manila.

“These are big establishments. At least two companies will be charged with civil suits and criminal suits,” he said.

Asked to respond to criticisms that he was missing in action on Tuesday when the floodwaters paralyzed the region for the second straight day, Aquino said he was busy coordinating with Cabinet officials from Malacañang.

“At the end of the day, perhaps the proof is in the pudding. If the government fails, I also take the blame. But if the government performs well, maybe you can include me in the compliments,” he said.

Aquino has not been seen in public—not even in press briefings—since enhanced monsoon rains swamped parts of Luzon Monday.

The President even skipped meetings of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, sending Cabinet officials instead.

But Aquino’s absence in the last three days drew harsh criticisms from several people, who went online to express their disgust over his non appearances even after several areas declared state of calamities while floods claimed lives and drove tens of thousands out of their homes.

“Where is PNoy?” Lynda Jumilla, an ABS-CBN broadcaster, asked via micro blogging site Twitter Tuesday, spurring a deluge of replies from people who shared the same sentiment.

Even presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte was not spared criticism on Twitter – first for calling on government employees to report for work an hour before the suspension of office, and second, for defending Aquino’s absence.

“Hey irate government employees. I need to go to work too. You’re not alone on this one,” Valte said in her Twitter account.

A lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio replied: “But not all of them have chauffeured SUVs with special plates! Now go to work and give us our money’s worth.”

In another post, Topacio, who also had to deal with Twitter users who were defending Valte, said: “A most desirable trait of a spokesman, my dear Abi, is knowing when to shut up… She is a government official. She is fair game. I am sure she knows that.”

Valte acknowledged that her post received much negative feedback, saying in one of her tweets: “I was getting clobbered online :) ”

Valte herself was unable to report for work on Tuesday, saying the roads leading to the Palace were flooded.

Valte also came to Aquino’s defense as netizens criticized him for not making the rounds on Tuesday.

“Many opportunities for self promo in the past, he shut them all down. That’s the way he is,” she said.

Twitter user WhatAWasteOfAdMoney, however, told Valte that being visible during calamities is not self-promotion but communicating with his constituents.

Another Twitter user, blogger Manuel Mejorada, said: “His alter egos are at work… right. so the President plays PSP (Play Station Portable)?”

The PSP comment was spurred by rumors in 2010 that Aquino was playing video games during the height of the Luneta hostage-taking of Hong Kong tourists.

But during a meeting with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Aquino did not directly answer the question whether he was playing PSP during the crisis, and instead said that “the specific date of the incident you mentioned, I think all you have to do is look at the calendar of activities that happened in Malacañang that particular day…If you just do a little checking, you will see that there is no basis for such allegation.”

FROM GMA NEWS TV

Palace on PNoy absence: He doesn't want to divert attention from flood victims August 21, 2013 10:31am 1313 334 2 1789

President Benigno Aquino III was visibly absent from the public eye at the height of the Tuesday's heavy downpour that flooded half of Metro Manila and nearby provinces but at least two Palace officials said this was for a good reason.

"As in the past, at the height of rescue and relief operations, the President does not want resources and personnel diverted to him visiting a site," presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told GMA News Online in a text message on Wednesday.

In a separate text message, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte likewise said Aquino "times his visits carefully so as not to divert attention, personnel and resources from those affected."

But she said the President "continuously monitored" the situation as the Cabinet secretaries involved were directly giving updates to him.

"[The] President wanted to make sure that help would reach those who need it," she said.

Lacierda also quoted Interior Sec. Mar Roxas as saying the President has been "in touch" with them despite being absent from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) briefing on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Aquino was forced by heavy rain to postpone his scheduled trips, including a visit to an exhibit honoring his late father.

Later in the day, Aquino said that despite his absence, he had been asking updates from his department heads since Sunday.

"Nandito yung Cabinete kong kinukulit ko, since Sunday," he said during his visit to the Mandaluyong Elementary School.

Aquino said he already noticed flooding along Osmeña Highway when he was on his way home from his sister's birthday celebration on Sunday so he immediately asked his Cabinet if they were ready for possible widespread flooding.

"Tinatanong ko kung ready na tayo dahil nga dun ko nabasa yung red na warning ng PAGASA tungkol sa dami ng ulan," he said. — Kimberly Jane Tan/RSJ, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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