MANILA (Mabuhay) – Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez on Monday accused the national government of engaging in partisan politics by failing to conduct rescue operations immediately after super typhoon “Yolanda” (international code name Haiyan) ravaged the city.
Speaking before the post-disaster assessment at the Senate, Romualdez said his pleas to national government officials to deploy more soldiers to Tacloban were ignored despite reports of widespread looting in the city.
He said he was unable to talk to President Aquino during the latter’s first visit to Tacloban last November 10, two days after the typhoon hit.
He said he told Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras that he needed more footsoldiers to assess the damage left behind by “Yolanda” and to rescue possible survivors in the wreckage.
“Many sitios and barangays were only accessible by foot. People were feeling frustrated seeing all these military planes and trucks and yet yung mga patay nila katabi nila. Yung mga naririnig nila mga boses na pwede pang ma i-rescue. There was never, ever any rescue up to today,” he said.
“Constantly, as the days went on I was asking for support, more footsoldiers to scour the area, to secure the places and conduct a rescue of the people. I was never given that,” he added.
He said he asked President Aquino and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to augment the police force.
“Hindi na augment ang security ng Tacloban City, tinanggal pa yung chief of police,” he said, referring to the decision to relieve Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria, chief of Philippine National Police Region 8, of duty.
The PNP said Soria was relieved of duty due to stress after he said that an estimated 10,000 people died in Leyte due to the typhoon.
In the briefing, Romualdez said he had “difficulty communicating” with the national government officials because “there were things asked of us .”
“They wanted an ordinance immediately for a curfew. And I said: it is difficult to have an ordinance for a curfew because we have no fiscal’s office, no court. If these people violate the curfew and be arrested, how can they post bail? Why don’t we just have checkpoints? And this went on and on, and yet every day. We were meeting every day, every morning. I could not understand why we could not get that support,” he said.
He said that in one meeting, Roxas asked him to “legalize everything” by passing an ordinance allowing the national government to conduct relief and rescue efforts in the city.
“I told him: why is it illegal? As far as I know, the President is the president of the Philippines and he is also president of Tacloban City. I don’t see anywhere in the law, that you need a letter or ordinance from me for you to come in and do what you are doing,” he said.
“He answered me: ‘You have to remember: we have to be very careful because you are a Romualdez and the president is an Aquino,’” he added.
Romualdez again denied reports that he was being asked to resign his post as Tacloban mayor. He said Roxas’ request was for him to write a letter saying that he could no longer do some of the functions as mayor of Tacloban, which would allow the national government to step in and help the city.
However, he said his own lawyers advised him not to write the letter since it could be deemed as a resignation letter.
Both the local and national governments have come under fire for the alleged slow response to the super typhoon, which has left nearly 6,000 people dead in Central Visayas as of today (December 9).
Earlier reports said the national government could not bring in relief goods and soldiers to Tacloban and other parts of Samar and Leyte after the typhoon damaged roads, airports and seaports.
Romualdez has also come under fire for allegedly failing to give proper warning to his constituents and evacuating them to higher ground. A CNN report described the mayor as the “ghost of Tacloban City” after some residents thought he had died in the typhoon.
During Monday’s hearing, he said he “lost everything” in the typhoon and was only able to save the clothes on his back. He admitted that he was staying at Patio Victoria near Tacloban’s coastline because he was monitoring the typhoon. (MNS)