Malacanang was especially quick in doing PR damage-control, pinning blame on NPA [Philstar]. Through social media, one of its senior speechwriters even defended police brutality and alleged government incompetence [READ: TP - Mar Roxas' own Speechwriter admits Gov't Incompetence].
Now, it's time to put things into perspective. Let's evaluate what has transpired during the months leading to that fateful day. Let's find relevant information that will shed light in this already-muddled situation.
TIMELINE: Before the Kidapawan Protest-turned-Massacre
11 April 2015: M’lang and Kabacan towns in North Cotabato (NoCot) were put under state of calamity due to severe drought. P230 million crop damage reported so far [Interaksyon].
01 June 2015: Government warns droughts will intensify, then end in May 2016. PAGASA said "weak" El Nino will worsen by August 2015. [Interaksyon].
30 July 2015: PAGASA warns El Nino most intense in 17 years by October 2015 [Inquirer].
04 September 2015: Senator Franklin Drilon questions lack of El Nino funding in Malacanang’s proposed 2016 Budget [Manila Times]. DA proposes P2 billion 2016 El Nino budget a month later [Philstar], eventually gets 900 million [BusinessMirror]. 18 Provinces to be badly hit by El Nino [PAGASA], so each province to receive just 50 million on the average.
|Pres. Aquino (L) and Sen. Drilon (R)|
22 October 2015: Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said government is thinking twice about El Nino efforts, that it won’t be as bad as initially thought [BusinessWorld].
11 November 2015: El Nino now 3rd strongest on record [Interaksyon].
22 January 2016: North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza (Liberal Party) declared state of calamity, allowing LGU to tap into calamity funds. Crop damage so far pegged at P238 million. Provincial LGU allots P4 million for cloud seeding. [ManilaBulletin]. The most severely hit towns were Alamada, Pigcawayan, Kabacan, Matalam, Aleosan, Mlang, Magpet, Pikit, Tulunan, Carmen and Kidapawan [Inquirer].
Gov. Mendoza alloted P14 million for El Nino efforts, saying unused fund will be kept intact to account for unforeseen calamities since the province is still in the first quarter of the year [NDBCNews].
26 January 2016: Department of Agriculture (DA) and PAGASA started cloud-seeding [Inquirer].
02 February 2016: DA said 900 million 2016 El Nino budget not enough, asks for additional 2.1 billion [Business Mirror].
09 February 2016: PAGASA projects El Nino will end anytime in May-June-July (MJJ) 2016 [PAGASA].
10 February 2016: A farmer in neighboring Maguindanao killed himself because he was “so worried about where to look for food for his family as his crops had all died" [Inquirer]. Some NoCot residents reported leaving for other areas to look for ways to feed their families [Inquirer].
17 February 2016: NoCot LGU says 36,915 farmers affected by the drought, mostly corn, rice, rubber and coconut farmers [MindaNews].
02 March 2016: PAGASA suspends cloud-seeding operations on 02 March due to safety concerns [Philstar].
18 March 2016: NoCot crop damages reaches P1 billion, with P989 million due to drought and P84.5 million due to rat infestations. Provincial agriculturist admits P4 million cloud seeding produced little rain. [Inquirer]
20 March 2016: TP has done a Google search for “North Cotabato Food Aid” articles dated between 01 February 2016 and 30 March 2016, and there was none. Politicians in general love to gain publicity when they conduct such projects, so the absence of any mention about North Cotabato food aid distributions since mid-February 2016 likely implies that weren’t any.
29 March 2016: 500 Farmers assembled in front of NFA Kidapawan, marking the start of the Kidapawan protests [GMANews].
Now, it's time to analyze.
First, both Malacanang and the Cotabato Provincial Government knew that El Nino is already happening in as early as April 2015, as shown by the declaration of states of calamity in two NoCot towns.
PAGASA also informed the government that the already-devastating drought will become even more devastating. In as early as July 2015, PAGASA warned us that this will be the worst El Nino, ever. Of course, the public expects that this will prompt government to put up a disaster mitigation plan.
Second, the Senate discovered that there was no mention of any El Nino funding in Malacanang's proposed 2016 budget, as pointed out by Senator Drilon in September. Malacanang's negligence is clear at this point. El Nino is a major natural catastrophe, yet they did not even bother to allocate funds for it.
Regardless, Malacanang inserted a P 2 billion proposal in responss, and DA eventually got P 900 million from the final 2016 budget, passed by year-end 2015. The Senate also appears to be blamed partly for this, because they provided less than half of what DA asked for.
Third: So far, we can see negligence from Malacanang and, at least at first glance, negligence from the Senate. Note, however, that for now, I only partly blame the Senate because there are many factors in budget deliberations that I still don't have information about. Besides, Malacanang could have easily proposed a larger budget in anticipation of the lower final allocation.
Halimbawa, kung ako ang DA at magpo-propose ako ng P2 billion at alam kong 900 million lang ang makukuha ko, e di magpro-propose na lang ako ng P4 billion tapos makakakuha ako ng P2 billion at the end of the day. E di makukuha ko yung gusto ko, di ba?
Para-paraan lang 'yan.
But Malacanang did not do that.
Why? Because even by late October, it's clear that the government is still downplaying PAGASA warnings and empirical data from the NoCot LGUs.
Just like what Roxas did during the Yolanda crisis, where he brought to Tacloban his entire entourage MINUS PAGASA personnel.
But wait! It gets more ridiculous.
Fourth, El Nino was already at its peak when DA suddenly discovered some time in late January to early February that P 900 million is not enough: they wanted a total of P 3 billion instead. But 2016 budget deliberations are over, making that request harder to fulfill.
Let's recap a bit: DA didn't want El Nino funds during the budget hearing stage. Pressed by Senate in Sept, they asked for P 2 billion in October. After budget hearings, they got 900 million and they didn't complain.
Then a couple of months later, "Oh, sh*t! we need 3 billion! OMG!". GENIUS.Around the same time, NoCot declared a state of calamity, enabling them to tap onto whatever calamity fund the province has or had. And when they did tap that fund, P3 million was also earmarked as supplement to the cloud seeding budget, since DA can afford only two week's worth because lack of national-level funds.
And despite the millions spent for cloud seeding - that lasted for barely over a month - the provincial agriculturist said it was a waste of money because it produced little rain! Rice takes 4 months to grow, corn takes at least two. One month of water and nothing afterwards is a good as none. That, is, NoCot's P4 million simply went up in smoke.
Now, what could P4 million buy?
NFA sells Regular Milled Rice to government agencies at P23 a kilo [NFA], so P4 million can buy 173,913 kilos of rice. At the most, there were 6,000 farmers in the Kidapawan Protest, so that's at least 28 kilos per protesting farmer.
Even if it still isn't enough, it's still 15 times betterthan the 3-kilos-per-quarter promise [Interaksyon], right?
But no, we can't do that, dahil pinambili na ng asin ang P4 million [Businessworld].
Fifth, NoCot allocated a paltry P14 million out of the P238 million calamity fund. NoCot has 1.2 million [PSA] with poverty incidence at 44.8 percent [NAPC], i.e. 540,000 are below the poverty line.
Assuming that the P14 million will be ENTIRELY for food aid to poor constituents, that amounts to a budget of just 26 pesos per poor person for the entire drought!
Madamme Governor, aanhin mo ang natira sa calamity fund kung patay na ang kalahati ng North Cotabato bago matapos ang taon? Sarap mong i-water cannon, promise.
By mid-February, NoCot residents are starting to feel severe hunger. That is expected given the fifth point above. Initially, Thinking Pinoy even tried to google NoCot food aid projects to no avail, but after seeing that budget allocation, it is hardly surprising.
And now, for the sixth and most important point:
Gov. Mendoza, the PNP, and even Malacanang said NPA coaxed these starving farmers to form the Kidapawan Highway blockade.
But Malacanang and Mendoza conveniently forgot that they have neglected the people of North Cotabato for so long. NPA or no NPA, they have been starving for months. They are facing the certainty of death from hunger. The two even had the gall to accuse the farmers of using their children as human shields [Philstar].
Did Malacanang expect the farmers to hire housemaids who can watch over their kids while they beg for food?
Bago pa man nagkaroon ng NPA angle, malinaw na pinabayaan ng gobyerno ang mga magsasaka. Iyan ang dahilan kung bakit maaari silang humingi ng tulong sa NPA. Dahil walang pakialam ang gobyerno. Kung mamamatay ka na sa gutom, kakapit ka na talaga sa patalim.
Four days have passed since the bloody April 1 dispersal, yet the government has yet to send even one bag of rice to North Cotabato!
Ay! nakalimutan ko, 26 pesos per head nga lang pala ang pera. Putanginang buhay 'to.
In the absence of government action, donations from private residents from neighbouring towns like Davao City and Tagum City came in. Celebrities even pitched in.
Daig pa kayo ni Anne Curtis, putang ina!
After the delivery of said private donations, this is what Gov. Mendoza had to say:
The government was incompetent and negligent from top to bottom, from start to end.
Of course, it'll blame communists, because it's the easiest palusot.
Because if the public realizes that Daang Matuwid is to blame, then Roxas can bid his desperate presidential ambitions a bitter and bloody goodbye.
Did you like this post? Help ThinkingPinoy.com stay up! Even as little as 50 pesos will be a great help!