UN praises P-Noy while lawyer threatens the Chair Wrecker
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-12-13
In a December 5 communication, United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction head, Jerry Velasquez, “praised the improved performance of early warning systems in the Philippines as Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) cut a swathe of destruction across the country resulting in over 200 deaths and significant economic losses.”

Velasquez also said: “This time last year over 1,400 people died on Mindanao in a similar event but this time big improvements in the early warning systems have saved many lives. More than 167,000 people have been evacuated to shelters.” Velasquez was obviously referring to that weather disturbance we named as Sendong.”

Velasquez singled out “the new automated rainfall and flood prediction systems as being critical to the provision of accurate forecasts and timely warnings as part of Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), introduced earlier this year by the Department of Science and Technology at the request of President Benigno S. Aquino.”

The UN official added: “The Government’s NOAH Project has enabled central government agencies, local governments and citizens to prepare and act before intense weather arrives. The project includes dissemination through television and the Internet of real-time satellite, Doppler radar, and other weather information enabling people to see not only wind speed and location of incoming weather disturbance but also the possible amount of precipitation. The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons each year so this is vitally important. It is also evident that since we met with local mayors in Mindanao earlier this year, practical measures have been taken on the ground to improve the alert system and communication with affected communities.”

Indeed, the improvement in disaster management in our country was made possible by the investment the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) made in weather forecasting technology. Without the new technology, it’s like building a house without tools. We’ll end up taking the word of soothsayers instead of the expert analysis of weather forecasters.

Technology is only one aspect of the enormous task to reduce disaster effects. Technology cannot go to a landslide area of Mindanao and rescue the affected and endangered families there. Soldiers died trying to do that in Mindanao during Typhoon Pablo. Technology cannot go from house to house to prod its occupants to leave for higher ground. We’ve seen in the recent past how Filipinos made it more difficult to save them by foolishly taking chances with the impending flood surge.

There’s the expression that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. In other words, it’s under the most trying moments when we see heroes or the men of the hour emerge. As described by the Midanaoans, Typhoon Pablo was even more vicious than weather disturbance Sendong in 2011. The wind and rainfall from Typhoon Pablo were considered more intense compared to that of Typhoon Sendong that claimed as many as 1,400 lives. And yet, the government managed to reduce the casualties of Typhoon Pablo, with thanks to President Aquino III for instilling a much higher level of efficiency and commitment among those in government who are involved with disasters.

Government workers’ commitment is one thing in the awesome task of coping with the effects of disasters. This would have not been feasible if the P-Noy government did not allocate enough funds for meeting the objectives. No doubt, DAANG MATUWID (Straight Path), the banner of the P-Noy administration, has produced the savings that would have been gobbled by graft and corruption. Per Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, the Philippines moved up by 24 points ‑ from 129th in 2011 to 105 in 2012. In 2011, the Philippines went up by 5 notches, from 134th to 129th.

A threat to the Chair Wrecker

A certain Atty. Lodelberto S. Parungao sent me a letter, dated November 22, with regards my November 18 column — “The truth about the Subic waste brouhaha”. Parungao claimed to be representing Rose Baldeo, one of those at the center of the Subic controversy. They wanted me to retract certain portions of that column — or else criminal charges could be filed.

Fat chance they’ll get a retraction when my best lights tell me that everything written in that column followed the guidelines for exercising free speech. My source of information is solid — the minutes of official meetings in Subic as well as a Senate Hearing. The column was written in the pursuit of the truth and public interest and not to “defame” Mrs. Baldeo, as Atty. Parungao claimed.

Even a very corrupt judge would find it hard to find libel in that column. It was an expression of opinion on matters of general/public interest, which right or freedom is guaranteed and duly recognized by the Constitution. Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo sued me for libel in 2005 and lost. The only reason why Mike Arroyo was not sued for damages, after my acquittal, is because he was reported to be in a very delicate health situation.

A rejoinder should be the pursuit of Parungao and his client ‑ not a retraction. Send me a rejoinder of no more than 400 words and the STAR will publish it. My e-mail address is listed below this column.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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