Two weeks ago Typhoon Haiyan hit the coast of several islands in the Philippines, causing massive amounts of damage and costing the island nation thousands of lives. While there were many preparations made before landfall, such as the closing of schools, numerous warnings for people to stay under shelter, and evacuations of hazardous areas, the strength of the storm surge proved overwhelming for the low-lying islands of Leyte and Samar. In those places most infrastructure was lost, delaying the receipt of aid, numerous individuals perished in the storm or remain unaccounted for, and there have been reports of violence in the resulting chaos. Other places have witnessed act of heroism such as the major of Guiuan, Christopher Gonzalez, who evacuated as many of his constituents as he possibly could, thereby saving at least four thousand lives. Clearly, the situation there remains precarious and the Philippine President Benigno Aquino is now attempting to take the reigns of this complicated relief effort.
Benigno Aquino was elected president in 2010 and has, until recently, been incredibly popular among the citizenry of the Philippines due to his successful economic policy making. However, during the last few months his image has been tainted by numerous allegations of corruption in his government. This has been exacerbated by the almost-unprecedented destruction of Typhoon Haiyan, whose toll Benigno Aquino’s government initially attempted to downplay. Aquino initially claimed that only around 2,000 people perished in the storm, despite media coverage reporting devastation well beyond the government estimates. For some time after, President Benigno Aquino did not budge in his assessment of the situation, causing many to become frustrated and even more to claim that he was being grossly insensitive. While Aquino has now acknowledged that the death toll is higher than his initial estimations, many remain skeptical of his ability to handle the complex situation properly.
President Benigno Aquino
Questions concerning President Benigno Aquino’s ability to led reconstruction and relief efforts were furthered heightened due to the difficulty of reaching several storm-damaged areas to distribute aid. Government efforts to aid the people of Leyte and Samar were delayed by the president’s under-estimation of the catastrophe, however conflicting footage of the disaster areas were shown in both national and international media almost immediately after the typhoon blew offshore. This fatal combination has severely undermined Aquino’s legitimacy as an effective president in times of crisis. His attempt to fix this situation has also backfired, as his visit to the region to directly manage the aid program and relief was cut short by the Philippine Supreme Court declaring his Priority Development Assistance Fund unconstitutional. Aquino halted his efforts in the aid program in Tacloban and flew directly to the capital of Manila. He is now attempting to launch an investigation into the local governments’ handling of the situation, however no results have been released as of yet.