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Presidential aspirants move to extend aid to Odette victims

Presidential aspirants in the 2022 elections on Friday kickstarted efforts to help victims of Typhoon Odette, which lashed many areas in the Visayas and Mindanao on Thursday night.

Senator Manny Pacquiao on Thursday night called on fellow presidential aspirants to set aside politics and band together to help typhoon victims.

In a Facebook post, Pacquiao sought the attention of Vice President Leni Robredo, former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and labor leader Leody de Guzman to join together and mobilize their resources for the affected areas.

“Magsama-sama tayo upang tulungan ang ating mga kababayan na nasalanta ng bagyo [Let’s band together and help our countrymen who are affected by the typhoon]. Now is the time to come together as one. Tulungan natin sila,” he said.

Leni responds

Pacquiao also posted the same appeal on his Twitter account to which Robredo responded.

“Joining you in this call, Sen. Manny,” Robredo tweeted.

Pacquiao thanked Robredo for heeding the call and asked her to coordinate their efforts.

“Thank you VP Leni. Let's begin coordinating our efforts, we already prepared cargo planes so we can mobilize and respond quickly,” Pacquiao responded.

According to Robredo's spokesperson Ibarra Gutierrez, the Vice President flew to Bohol on Friday to personally extend aid to typhoon victims there.

"She also plans to go to Leyte, Surigao, Cebu and Negros in the coming days," Gutierrez said. "We know that the Vice President observes a hands-on approach."

Gutierrez also said Robredo is expected to have a dialogue with the people affected by Odette.

In a statement, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) said she is expected to reach Bohol on Friday afternoon.

"Vice President Robredo is visiting the Province of Bohol this afternoon, December 17, to assess how the Office of the Vice President can further assist the areas affected by Typhoon Odette, as part of OVP’s relief operations," it said.


At a press briefing, de Guzman said Pacquiao's call is "timely," adding his team is ready to assist in the distribution of assistance to the typhoon victims. He urged those with money to donate financially to the efforts.

"Yung mga may bilyun-bilyon, may P3-5 billion na uubusin sa eleksyon, baka maganda kalahati niyan ibigay muna sa mga taga-Mindanao dahil nangangailangan sila doon," he said.

(Those who'll spend P3-5 billion in the elections perhaps can donate half of that to Mindanao residents that need assistance.)

"Sa katulad ko... naghahanda yung aming organisasyon para maging makinarya sa distribusyon o kailan magbibigay... yun ang aming kontribusyon," de Guzman added.

(But for the likes of me, our organization is ready to provide the machinery for the distribution... that will be our contribution.)

BBM, Sara mobilize network

In a statement, UniTeam -- the coalition of Marcos and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte -- said the two have tapped their network of volunteers to distribute relief goods to those affected by the typhoon.

It said the volunteers have prepared relief packs containing five kilograms of rice, assorted canned goods such as sardines, corned beef, meatloaf, milk, and instant coffee.

It added that 6,000 relief packs for Samar, 6,000 for Leyte, 2,000 for Tacloban, and 6,000 for Masbate have been prepared. 

"Volunteers are still busy preparing several batches of relief goods for distribution to other areas requiring aid," it said.

Isko vows help

For his part, Moreno called for a special session of the Manila City Council to pass a resolution allotting a certain sum of money intended for relief operations in Cebu province and other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao that was badly hit by Odette.

"I have already asked the presiding officer of the City Council, Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna, to immediately hold a special session and a resolution be passed allocating a certain sum of money for the typhoon victims in the Visayas and Mindanao," Moreno said in a statement.

Moreno also appealed to Manileños to initiate a fund drive that and contribute to the relief efforts for the typhoon victims.

A fundraising activity called “Tulong ng Manilenyo sa mga Nasalanta ni Odette” has been suggested for local businessmen and volunteer groups supporting Moreno’s presidential bid. 

A statement from Moreno's team said the Manila mayor is planning to personally go to Cebu City to personally lead the relief efforts courtesy of the City of Manila.

'Calamity politics'

Lacson, meanwhile, said he would have offered his help had Pacquiao approached him privately.

“If it was done through private communication, I would have responded privately as well and offered whatever resources we can share at our disposal in a coordinated effort. Since it was done through media - it goes against my principled belief that 'calamity politics' is the lowest form of campaigning. In fact, I consider it abominable,” Lacson told GMA News Online in a text message.

Nevertheless, Lacson said his office, like in past calamities, would extend its help to the victims without fanfare.

“As in the past calamities, my Senate office as well as friends and supporters assisted without fanfare and without any media coverage. We did it in Cagayan Valley, and Bicol region and some other areas hit by strong typhoons. Election or no election, we assist and help, period,” he added.

Dozens of areas were still under Tropical Cyclone Wind Signals as of Friday morning, according to state weather bureau PAGASA. Four of these areas were under Signal No. 3.

Verified video shots and photos posted on social media showed flooded streets, trees swaying violently, and damaged infrastructures in various parts of the Philippines.

Odette (international name: Rai) is hitting the Philippines late in the typhoon season, with most cyclones developing between July and October. —Hana Bordey, Anna Felicia Bajo and Llanesca T. Panti/KBK/VBL, GMA News