The victims of typhoon Yolanda have been victimized thrice: first, by the forces of nature; second, by the lack of proper help from the government; and third, by the public statements of the Aquino administration and its supporters who have called them stupid, lazy, communists, and worse.
Here are some of the more widespread statements directed against Yolanda victims, and corresponding relevant humanitarian principles:
1. What the Administration Says: “We can’t do anything because Yolanda is very powerful”
1.1 What Humanitarians Say:
“Disaster risk is a product of the frequency and intensity of hazards and the vulnerability of livelihood… The role of societal systems… could alter the hazard characteristics and reduce vulnerability”
– UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), The Role of Local Institutions in Reducing Vulnerability to Recurrent Natural Disasters and in Sustainable Livelihoods Development in High Risk Areas
1.2 What It Means: Societal systems, including governments, laws, and economic policies, can lessen the risk of disasters happening. In lay-man’s terms, it can lessen the impact of a typhoon or drought (these are properly called ‘hazards’ and not ‘disasters).
2. What the Administration Says: “Yolanda victims are lazy and dependent on the government”
2.1 What Humanitarians Say:
“The UN has acknowledged that a HRBA (human rights-based approach) is the right thing to do… Human rights impose obligations on governments (who are the primary duty-bearers).”
– UN Population Fund (UNFPA), A Human Rights-Based Approach to Programming
2.2 What It Means: Governments have the primary duty to take care of the Yolanda victims.
- What the Administration Says: “Those complaining are ‘communists’ or paid by the Romualdezes”
3.1 What Humanitarians Say:
“All OCHA activities are guided by the four humanitarian principles… Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of… class or political opinions.”
– UN Office on Coordination for Humanitarian Actions (UNOCHA), OCHA on Message: Humanitarian Principles
“The 2010 HAP Standard is comprised of six HAP benchmarks, as follows:
Benchmark 4: Participation – The organisation listens to the people it aims to assist, incorporating their views and analysis in program decisions.
Benchmark 5: Handling Complaints – The organisation enables the people it aims to assist and other stakeholders to raise complaints and receive a response through an effective, accessible, and safe process”
– Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP), The 2010 HAP Standard
3.2 What It Means: Even if those complaining are really communists, it doesn’t matter. They still have the right to speak up, to be heard, and to receive proper disaster aid. And by discriminating against Taclobanons because their mayor is an arch-enemy of Noynoy is absolutely the worst.
- What the Administration Says: It’s actually the fault of the LGUs
4.1 What Humanitarians Say:
“Section 6. Powers and Functions of the NDRRMC. – The National Council… shall have the following responsibilities:… Formulate a national institutional capability building program for disaster risk reduction and management to address the specific’ weaknesses of various government agencies and LGUs”
– DRRM Act of 2010
4.2 What It Means: If the LGUs failed during Yolanda, it means the national government failed in its duty to make them capable.
5. In short, Yolanda victims are not lazy people who have done nothing but complain. As humans with human rights, they are entitled to proper government assistance. And they have a right to complain when their rights are not respected. By the government’s refusal to take responsibility, and by branding the victims ‘rebels’, the latter have been victimized not once, or twice, but thrice.