I am overwhelmed by the bayanihan spirit that Filipinos – really, human beings – here and all over the world, have displayed in coming to the aid of the tens of thousands affected by Typhoon Ondoy. Extraordinary situations allow ordinary people to become heroes. For every hero, there must be a villain. There will be people who take all the joy out of helping others, a Rogues’ Gallery, if you will, of people who do make it difficult to love.
Please allow me to present to you the initial inductees into these hallowed halls of infamy in this darkest of hours. As you read, please take into consideration that I am calling not for their crucifixion, although the temptation is great, and the anger inside me is difficult to contain; rather, I am calling on us to do something productive pray for these men and women, that they will one day see and regret the lost opportunities they had to make a difference, to save a life, to encourage their fellow man who only wanted the best for the nation. The Bible tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”; I carry the analogy over: “one’s actions speak of the goodness in our hearts.” One day, they may be on the other side of the fence; when that day comes, I can only pray that we do not react to their plight the way they have reacted to ours.
1. Certain people at the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The geniuses at the Bureau of Internal Revenue continue to implement taxes on donations to private individuals and groups that are helping the relief efforts. These people put the letter of the law above its spirit and value opportunities for red tape and coffer-building above building initiative to donate to the private sector, which responded to the crisis of Ondoy faster and more efficiently than the national government.
It makes sense to donate to private groups; they work faster, mobilize faster, and liquidate faster. At this point, taxing someone who wants every centavo they donate to go to the initiatives that benefit the disaster victims is counter-productive; lift the donation tax for Ondoy!
2) Ondoy virus maker. The Ondoy crisis could have been much, much worse were it not for the hundreds of bloggers and persons on social media networks who passed around information to the right people. How do you reward these good samaritans? Make a virus that crashes their computer and stops them from communicating more news. These virus makers should be very, very, very ashamed of themselves.
3) Attention-seeking politicians and would-be politicians. You make me sick, attaching your stickers to every loot bag you distribute, even repackaging donations, hoisting tarpaulins on the sides of your trucks, so your names will shine brighter than the sun. You visit a few barangays, giving speeches while hungry people wait for you to finish so they can enjoy their first meal in days. Ironically, it is most likely our money that you are using to print these stickers and tarpaulins, our money you are using to buy the relief goods, and our money you are using to haul your opportunistic selves around.
4) Angry refugees. I understand the nature and frustration of losing everything, but the last time I checked, only children below the age of three are naturally drawn to biting the hands that feed them. More and more stories are coming in of refugees fighting – even killing – each other over a canned good, stoning the rescue volunteers who come to help them, and demanding – not asking, demanding – assistance. The same follows for those in the community who loot their neighbors’ homes. You make it so difficult for us to help you!
My video editor told me, when he visited one barangay, that he barely avoided being hit by a piece of wood with a nail in it, thrown by people angered that the relief truck he was on was headed to a barangay where the residents were neck-deep in floodwater. Five drunken men led the assault, he said, of the barangay residents who were safely on dry land.
At a certain point, relief efforts have to stop so self-reliance can kick in. Instead of sitting around drinking beer, gin, and rum, and inciting their fellowmen to riot every time a volunteer group comes with whatever little it can offer to help them get back on their feet, these men and women would do better to get up and begin picking up the pieces of their lives.
5) Self-righteous know-it-alls and social critics. “Ang bagal ng assembly line style, dapat ganito.” “Don’t give canned goods, give fresh food so they can eat it right away.” “Bakit ganyan ang pagtali ng plastic bag ninyo?” “Si GMA ang may kasalanan nitong lahat!” “Sinasayang niyo lang oras ninyo, ingrato ang mga squatter.” “Magkakasakit ka, huwag na.” “Kayo kasi, tapon ng tapon ng plastic bag, yan, baha.” Tama na ang satsat ninyo! If you hate the system so much, do something about it; if all you can offer is advice or demotivating remarks, please, tumahimik na lang kayo and let us work.
6) Price-raising entrepreneurs. Even if GMA has issued the call for price controls, there are evil people working to make the biggest buck out of this crisis. Leading the charge of infamy are some people at the funeral parlors, who are charging exorbitant rates for everything from wakes to coffins. Also in this list: ukay-ukay smugglers and folks selling water & gasoline in far-flung areas.