We should learn to handle man-made disasters PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 05 January 2015 12:01

By MANNY VALDEHUESA

 

Thank God Typhoon Senyang exited the Philippine area after only three days; still, it left the usual devastation in its wake, this time along the northern and eastern seaboard of Mindanao.

Various kinds of disaster befall our archipelago regularly, natural and man-made. Typhoons alone batter us an average of 22 times yearly, or almost twice every month. And there’s not much we can do about them except minimize casualties.

Other times we have outbreaks of disease, old or new or exotic like SARS or MERS-CoV. There was even an outbreak of typhus in Cebu some years back. And red tide invades various seacoasts every so often. But we manage to carry on.

It’s a sad fact of life in our archipelago that we get battered every so often by Mother Nature. But it’s sadder that man-made disasters go on all the time unabated. They cause devastation to moral, political, economic damage which are entirely within our power to control or prevent.

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But we’re proving to be socially inept and politically incapable of dealing with such man-made disasters. We can’t be that morally deficient, corrupted, or immature; we just need to be serious about eradicating public corruption. Too often we take man-made damage lightly, falling back on our capacity for finding humor in difficult circumstances.

Laughter is great for light moments, but we should turn off the laughter when confronted with public abuse, dishonesty, or corruption.

Shrugging off the corrupt antics of our officials as if it’s just a bad joke is not funny. When the devastating discovery that our premier correctional facility, the New Bilibid Prison system, was turned into a criminal facility by wealthy inmates, it wasn’t a joking matter. But there was hardly any indignation.

There should have been nationwide indignation. The officials who coddled the hard-core criminals, allowing them to live luxurious lives in prison, transforming their jail cells into a spa and a den of iniquity, should have been condemned in no uncertain terms and kicked out.

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Our inability to show indignation is softening our national character. We’re supposed to be a hardy people, patient and forbearing, tough when necessary. But not anymore, it seems.

We need to do something about our attitude and learn to distinguish between natural and man-made disasters so we can deal with the latter effectively. There’s little we can do about the tantrums of nature, but there’s a lot we can do about the abuses of man.

We should get tough with our government and hold it to higher standards, applying sterner measures when they betray our trust. It’s bad enough that disaster makes people dispirited, becoming defeatist in a despairing way, driving them to escapist pastimes—drinking, gambling, anything to overcome despair or hopelessness.

Things wouldn’t be so bad if we learn to enforce the law uncompromisingly. We can’t control nature but we can control man. We can discipline him or prevent him from committing crimes that cause moral and physical disaster.

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Man-made disasters demean our nation, weaken our republic, and consign the Filipino race to the fate of Sisyphus—ever trying to push reforms up the incline, only to be thwarted near the top by the greed and vanity of fellow Filipinos.

It’s very bad that we allow man-made disaster to cause or worsen poverty, driving our countrymen to pack up and go abroad…far from the ravages of public dishonesty or bad governance…far from the monotony of recurrent bankruptcy and starting over again, making their lives less and less satisfying, and their mood more and more depressing. -Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. valdehuesa@gmail.com (MindaNews)