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PNoy: LGU handling of Yolanda under investigation

(Updated 8:35 p.m.) President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said an investigation is ongoing on the local government units' handling of preparations and response to Typhoon Yolanda, which slammed the Visayas region over a week ago and flattened many areas there.

“That is a matter that is subject of investigation," said Aquino in Alangalang, Leyte, when asked by reporters on whether the LGUs were prepared for Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to make landfall.

“I'd rather have the investigation finished before I accused anybody," he added, specifically citing Leyte province and its capital Tacloban City.

Tacloban's current mayor, Alfred Romualdez, is a scion of the Romualdez-Marcos political family. His aunt, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, is the widow of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, a political rival of Aquino's father, slain senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

Enough with speculations

In a report on GMA News' “24 Oras,” Romualdez said “speculations” should take a back seat to addressing the needs of the thousands of people affected by the typhoon.

“It's a reality. We have to face it and we have to do something about it, instead of speculating, analyzing... Tama na 'yun. Kung anong nakikita natin, 'yun ang ayusin natin. Tsaka na tayo mag-usap,” he said.

Without mentioning names, Romualdez also urged government officials to act like "statesmen" in the face of the disaster.

“Respetuhin na natin 'yung nangyari na, ayusin na lang natin 'yung problema natin ngayon. Let's be more statesman[-like],” he said.

Try and understand

On Monday, Aquino, who has been criticized over his supposedly insensitive remarks in the typhoon's aftermath, said he would "like to try and understand" where the LGUs are coming from since even local officials were not spared by the super typhoon.

But Aquino quickly added that the LGUs have to admit that "there was a breakdown in terms of government and there was a cascading effect."

He pointed out that if Tacloban is compared to towns like Palo, there appears to be a big difference in how it dealt with Yolanda.

“You pass through Palo and you would notice that they are already stringing up the lights, you've seen the markets that are opening up, you've seen the farmers already drying their rice,” Aquino said.

“If you look at the casualty figures, the overwhelming bulk of them happened in this region.  Why are some provinces reporting... zero casualties in terms of deaths? Some of them are very, very minimal but here you are talking thousands already. What is the difference? And everybody was basically given the same bits of knowledge and information,” he added.

Command responsibility

Asked if this does not reflect on his leadership as well, he said it does since he has “general supervision overall.”

“I'm the chief executive, therefore, everything that happens ultimately resides with me,” he said.

But Aquino immediately noted that "the system has to rely on the local government unit, which is already in place to provide the necessary permission so that the adequate responses can be generated by the national government.”

“That's why we call it a backbone. When the backbone doesn't exist, what do you actually augment? The national government had to fill in so many roles,” he said, citing their augmentation of police officers and soldiers.

Aquino's statements came after the Palace said it is not blaming anyone for the damage caused by Yolanda. It even admitted that the government had some shortcomings.

Close to 4,000 people have been confirmed dead because of Yolanda as of Monday morning, based on the latest National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) report.  

Aquino flew to Leyte on Sunday, saying he won't leave until the situation there improved to his satisfaction. — Kimberly Jane Tan and Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News