To save people from danger and distress is an innate virtue to President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Bong Go. This is known quite well to us Dabawenyos when the President was still Mayor of Davao City and the Senator his executive assistant.
Both of them had served in those capacities for over 20 years and we have seen how Duterte and Bong respond to emergencies. This, by the way, is true with the Presidential daughter and City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Davao City has its own share of natural man-made calamities. While the city is free from killer typhoons flash floods happen on account of heavy rains. And yes, we have a share of vicious terror attacks.
Duterte used to live in a small bungalow near a river. Early in his first term as mayor, a menacing flood occurred at midnight that submerged his home and those of his neighbors. The media caught him half-naked and busy rescuing flood victims. It turned out later that while he helped those trapped by the rising floods his home and everything in it were damaged.
On December 22, 2017, residents of Jade Valley Subdivision located adjacent to Davao River were caught unprepared by a flash flood spawned by Typhoon Vinta that submerged houses in the middle of the night sending residents to safety on the rooftops of their homes. Then Presidential Assistant Bong Go, rushed to the scene with his jetski and rescued children and elderly.
The event was even covered by Rappler.
And talking of Rappler, its correspondent Pia Ranada, who was covering the May 9, 2016 election day events in Davao City, fell in a canal along with two other journalists from Manila. The incident happened soon after Duterte left the polling precinct and local, national, and foreign journalists and scores of onlookers tailed the Mayor in a narrow path.
When Duterte was informed of the incident he rushed Ranada, Henry Uri, and Richie Tongco to Davao Doctors hospital for treatment. He never left the three until the doctors advised him that they are well.
One of the nostalgic events I wrote about the virtues of Mayor Duterte was about a mother of four named Annelyn Pongase Paunon. On June 5, 2013, she and her kids went out late afternoon window shopping at G-Mall only to be stranded by heavy rains that rendered many city streets not passable and public transport to a standstill.
Frantic, as it was almost midnight, Annelyn attempted to wade through floodwater to get to nearby San Pedro Hospital hoping taxi cabs would brave their way carrying patients in an emergency. But before she could cross the street, a black D’Max pick-up stopped in front of them. The passenger, who was hardly visible because of darkness and rain, asked her where she was going. She managed to just say Skyline”. Skyline is a subdivision that is about 10 kilometers away from G-Mall. “Sakay na, ihatud ta mo”. (Come, I will take you there.)
Once they were inside, Annelyn had a surprise in her life when she recognized that the passenger in the front seat was Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Annelyn, who is a bosom friend of my daughter related that the mayor’s vehicle was stuck in a traffic gridlock not far from where the came from. She recalled that Duterte disembarked and manned the traffic after instructing the driver to take her and her children home.
On June 30, 2011, 10-foot rampaging floodwater caused by several hours of rain from Typhoon Ondoy. Pangi river swelled and ten-foot rampaging floodwaters carted away several houses along the river banks killing at least 25 people.
Mayor Inday Sara spent sleepless night directing rescue operations. By daybreak, while she was comforting the families who lost their family members, she was advised of the demolition of temporary settlers taking place in Agdao.
Earlier she sent an errand to suspend any demolition order as the city was in a state of calamity. Upon hearing that the Sheriff ordered that the demolition be carried out anyway, an irate Inday Sara rushed to the scene, looked for the sheriff, and delivered him a couple of punches. Those punches landed in national and international media. Instead of condemnation, Dabawenyos endeared her for her compassion and for fighting for the poor and for what is right and just.
Remember the killer Typhoon Yolanda? The first government official outside those from Leyte was Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Watching how Tacloban was ravaged by the howler that whipped up a monstrous storm surge he immediately organized relief and medical teams to help the badly battered city.
Before Yolanda could exit the country Duterte was already on his way with several medical crew and 15 truckloads of relief goods. For three days he encamped in the midst of the wreckage. My brother who is Davao City’s medico-legal and was part of the group sent me gruesome pictures he took when they arrived at the scene of tragedy showing dead bodies still lined up by the roadside.
For those looking for Duterte, by innate virtue and training, you can find him where danger and distress call him. You do not see him on your demand in the midst of the storm but anywhere he is, you can be sure he is on top of the situation, getting gets things done the way they should be.
A lesson for Leni Robredo and her ilk – rescue and relief in the eye of a calamity or disaster is a public relations tool.
The first clue of insincerity and opportunism during disasters are politicians and celebrities with a dearth of relief goods but with a retinue of TV crew and journalists in tow. They hope to harvest photo optics or visibility on top of the misery of others.
Rescue and relief work is very serious business. The last three typhoons claimed half a dozen lives of personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways who were on the job in thick of the rain.
Logistical preparations are done months, even years ahead as it requires serious provision of light to heavy equipment, and organization of human resources, whose lives and safety too are to be taken into consideration.
So great responsibility is necessary in mobilizing men and women. Many things are not to be done by the leader himself but cautiously delegated to others, because there are many volunteers respond and most of them are without training.
Rescuers put their own lives in rescuing others. It does not start when people are already on their rooftops because of floods but much before the rains start gathering those in danger zones and evacuating them to safe havens.
Even relief work must be timely and efficient because they involve goods and services that have been sourced from taxpayers money or the goodwill of private donors.
Anything different is only for show.