By JOHN TRIA
It has been an October to remember for many in Mindanao.
Three major earthquakes and their aftershocks did much to fray nerves and cause buildings to collapse.
Unfortunately these tremors also provoked nasty social media comments against the earthquake victims from people who a friend calls “anti-Mindanao bigots.” Against reason, they blamed the President and his support base for a natural disaster.
Unexpectedly, the firestorm of reaction from many mindanaoans to their comments came not only from the President’s supporters who they targeted, but from all sides of the political spectrum and social classes who felt the sting of their remarks, calling them biased, ill-timed, and unfair against them for simply being from Mindanao.
Many Mindanaoans feel unfair after recalling how much they came to the aid of those stricken by calamities such as Typhoon Ondoy and Yolanda.
Even if it was meant to be an “awakening for the DDS”, it did not awaken disgust at the president but backfired against them, being taken like an arrogant finger being waved at their face or an ethnic slur for simply being who they are.
They provoked a wider audience they did not intend to hit. Suddenly, a bigger Mindanao constituency rose to defend their identity and push for the welfare of those affected by the quakes.
After seeing the backlash, those who suddenly tried to justify their careless words or shift and “ask for donations” now stand accused of duplicity and insensitivity. Their credibility is gone, and their capacity to influence buried under the rubble.
Frankly, in all past natural disasters, never have I seen such nastiness and prejudice against affected communities.
Would these same detractors blame the Japanese government or the Japanese people’s support for their government over the same earthquakes and typhoons that visit Japan? I guess not.
The lesson here is that politicizing a natural disaster and gloating over the misfortune of the vulnerable ought to be admonished, especially if those affected also happen to be the poorest and most vulnerable by decades of past neglect.
In disaster or incident management, it is the most vulnerable who require our understanding and support.
Instead of politicking, this is a time for patience, perservearance, and solidarity. We cannot blame anyone for natural disasters but must ensure that help comes. Its what we do as a response that deserves greater attention.
The earthquakes are expected to continue and strong typhoons are predicted in this age of climate change in many areas of the country, which already is one of the most diaster-prone countries in the world. Resources at the local level are stretched.
We hope that the quakes will not hurt Mindanao’s strong economic growth in the last three years. Recovery from the disaster will be vital.
Longer-term help will be needed as residents are afraid to return to their homes. Higher-level cooperation at the regional level is hoped for. This is how foreign governments at the ASEAN UN Summit can help.
Despite these comments, we continue to rise.
We thank the many who have provided support through the various channels like civic and religious organizations like Couples for Christ which are now mobilized, the Jaycees and the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Asia Pacific Network for Disaster Management, and the Davao City government for extending help beyond their borders, and acknowledge the local governments for their response.
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