PeopleSurge holds a cenaculo-inspired procession
to the Times Street residenceof BS Aquino


Quezon City


April 5,  2014





Photos courtesy of Abby Valenzuela


April 6, 2014
Yolanda survivors depict their sufferings under Aquino administation


MANILA — Uttering in Filipino, “Hail Aquino you are oppressing us, you are killing us, you turned your back on us,” a play on the prayer Hail Mary, members of People Surge and supporters held a cenaculo-inspired procession to Times street in Quezon City, the ancestral home of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

The Philippines is predominantly Catholic and cenaculo, usually performed during the Lenten season, is a play depicting the life, sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.

At the head of the procession was a survivor of typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) bearing a yellow, bloodied cross, flanked by protesters wearing the faces of Aquino, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, so-called rehabilitation czar Panfilo lacson, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
As the procession proceeded, those portraying the five government officials took turns whipping and kicking at the survivor carrying the cross. Behind them, women in black mourning veil, carrying crosses, were praying loudly for the government to listen to the petition of Yolanda survivors.

They failed to turn left, however, toward the residence of Aquino, as they were barred by interlocked steel barriers, three police vehicles from the National Capital Region, and numerous security guards and policemen. Some of the security guards shared their drinking water with the protesters, but they still did not remove the roadblock.

The barrier forced the marchers to conduct a program instead at the intersection of Times st. and Examiner st.

Joel Abaño, a member of People Surge from Leyte, said that instead of finding help, the government is “making things even harder for them.”

Eastern Visayas is poorer after Yolanda. After their main crops consisting of coconut and some roots for food were washed out by Yolanda, and with little to no agricultural subsidy that could help them rehabilitate agriculture, their main sources of livelihood, Abaño said their people are now lacking in food. Even the 58-year old farmer from Samar who was carrying the yellow cross and wearing a crown of thorns told that his family’s coconuts had died due to Yolanda, and they have no way of replacing all of it now as the family struggles just to subsist.

Amid the suffering and challenges to survival of Yolanda victims, what has the government been doing? Abaño asked during the program.

“They’re like playing a basketball game — they’re fond of passing the blame. But we continue to demand those donations and relief that were sent for us,” said Abaño.

People Surge reiterated the rest of their demands for genuine rehabilitation.

Adding burden rather than help

What hurts the typhoon survivors in Eastern Visayas is the fact that the government is doing worse than just inaction regarding the Yolanda victims’ needs – “the Aquino government is adding even more burden to what we’re already suffering after Yolanda,” Abaño said.

The statement of People Surge and their leaders who spoke at a brief program at Times St. decried the “Gang of Five,” referring to Aquino, Soliman, Roxas, Petilla, Lacson, who they say came to Eastern Visayas not to help the survivors but to grab their lands. Under the Aquino government’s supposed rehabilitation plan, Abaño said “they distributed our lands to rich businessmen like Danding Cojuangco, Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, Manny Pangilinan and other cronies who play guns with the inutile president.”

Five months after Yolanda ravaged their land and their livelihood and killed probably 10,000 people, “nothing is happening for us,” the survivors said.

Eric Labagala, 60, a member of People Surge from Samar, reiterated the common expectations that the government is supposed to help the survivors, as it is the government’s duty.

Instead, Soliman allowed the donated food to rot, hastily burying it so as not to be criticized for her selfishness, Labagala said.

“Roxas built houses fit only for doves, and full of issues of corruption at that. Petilla did not give light but made us spend Christmas in the dark. When finally we get back our electricity, we are told we will be charged higher,” Labagala said during the procession.

He continued that “Ping Lacson is threatening the families of the 17,585 who signed the People Surge petition that they would withhold relief.”

Worse, according to Marissa Cabalijao of People Surge-Samar, soldiers from the state military are now hunting for the family members of those who signed the petition, especially those who are joining rallies and protest actions against the Aquino government’s flawed rehabilitation.

We have gone through typhoon Yolanda, but we can’t bear typhoon Noynoy, Labagala said.

Not beggars

“We are typhoon survivors, not beggars,” the People Surge statement reads. They expressed apprehension that they would be pushed even deeper into poverty because the way things are shaping up as “rehabilitation” under the Aquino government, 80 percent of the budget are earmarked for infrastructure when majority of the people need aid in agriculture.

Much of the 2013 unspent funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of more than P14 billion were earmarked for relief and rehabilitation and disaster concerns, but under the discretion of Aquino. In this year’s budget, aside from the increases in budgets of, say, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, there are also unprogrammed lump sum funds of more than P100 billion for disaster issues, relief and rehabilitation. Yet, the People Surge repeatedly reported they did not feel these funds helping them.

In fact, the budget allotment for the regions lashed by Yolanda is the lowest compared to other regions. Visayas gets only 18 percent in the regionalized portion of the 2014 budget when it was still being proposed (despite Yolanda).

The typhoon survivors said they cannot be expected to get back on their feet if all livelihood-related aid is in “cosmetic” temporary and limited cash-for-work program. They reiterated also their condemnation of the “hypocritical No-Build Zone” that they say means eviction of former residents to give way to rich businessmen raring to take over their coastal addresses.

“If the Aquino government is indeed worried only of our safety, how come they are allowing big business and foreign investors to construct infrastructures right where our loved ones died during Yolanda? Why are the mining and logging operations in farflung areas lashed by Yolanda still continuing?” the People Surge asked in a statement.

Global Day of Protest

On April 8, the survivors of Yolanda and supporters in the Philippines and abroad are set to conduct a day of protest. In a statement, Benedictine nun Edita Eslopor asked the public to write the offices of each of the “Gang of Five,” telling them of public support to the petition submitted by the Yolanda survivors last February.

She also urged the public to help them press Aquino to answer to and release the donations sent by relatives, friends and other helping hands from abroad. Eslopor also requested support for their rally at Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang on April 8.

At the very least, she asked the public to join their ongoing “black ribbon for justice campaign”, as she invited everyone to be a member of People Surge through Facebook page ( She asked the public to show their support of the survivors’ campaign for justice from the government’s criminal negligence through messages in radio, TV, newspapers, text or SMS and various social media. (

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April 2, 2014
Yolanda survivors set a week of protest vs Aquino-led ‘Gang of 5’

Today, the survivors of Yolanda’s wrath are also finding it difficult to get back on their feet, not only because they lack appropriate services from the government — on the contrary they are being “evicted” and forced to accept loans or “cosmetic” solutions of short-term jobs – they also have to contend with increased military deployment.


MANILA – A week leading to the fifth month since supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) hit the Philippines, members of a region-wide alliance of its survivors, the People Surge, announced a series of protests in Metro Manila and in Eastern Visayas against what they call as the “Gang of Five.” People Surge referred to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas, Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman, Energy Sec. Carlos Petilla, and former Senator and so-called rehab czar Panfilo Lacson.
Yolanda survivors' alliance People Surge, Chruchpeople and supporters from various organizations decry the 'Gang of Five'
Yolanda survivors’ alliance People Surge, Chruchpeople and supporters from various organizations decry the ‘Gang of Five’

Parodying a show of gratitude, the storm survivors are set to “thank” each of the “Gang of Five” through picket-protests in front of their particular headquarters starting April 2, culminating in a big rally toward Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang on April 8, exactly the fifth month since Yolanda hit the country.
Taking to task the Gang of Five, one by one

Decrying their “fifth month of agony,” the typhoon survivors “thanked” on April 1st Fools Day in a press conference President Aquino and his administration’s “prompt, efficient and continued” delivery of services to the Yolanda survivors. The survivors’ report had detailed how the Aquino government’s response has, in fact, been the opposite of prompt and efficient.

The storm survivors have repeatedly conducted protests in front of the office of Social Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman.

“The Social Welfare Secretary has been ‘exposed’ several times,” People Surge said, citing as one of the most recent examples last March 28 when, with various sectors, they stormed the office of the DSWD to return the rotten and wormy relief goods Soliman’s office has distributed to storm survivors.

On April 2, Wednesday, People Surge and supporters from various organizations based in Metro Manila trooped to the office of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. After Aquino and Soliman, Roxas is dubbed as another member of the Gang of Five who failed the Yolanda survivors.

In a protest in front of DILG office, members of People Surge deplore the actions of Sec. Mar Roxas and warn the public against his presidential ambition. (Photo by M. Salamat /
In a protest in front of DILG office, members of People Surge deplore the actions of Sec. Mar Roxas and warn the public against his presidential ambition. (Photo by M. Salamat /
Roxas is seen as being groomed to be the Liberal Party’s presidential bet in 2016. But the Yolanda survivors asked: “Do you expect the Yolanda survivors to believe him and vote for him after his politicized response during the crucial period of rescue and relief distribution?” Roxas’ now famous line, “You’re a Romualdez and he’s an Aquino,” delivered at a meeting with local government executives, demonstrates what the People Surge denounces as “color-coded” disaster response by the government. In this kind of response, local allies of politicians in higher positions are more swiftly cornering the bulk, if not all, of available aid and relief.

Survivors of Yolanda said Sec. Roxas failed to deliver prompt social services to storm victims; he responded to the calamity in a “politicized manner,” and he plays a big part in implementing the anti-people, pro-big business No-Build Zone policy. This policy evicts, in effect, the residents from their homes and livelihood, the People Surge said.

On April 2 also, at the Baclaran Church, church people, artists and professionals held a day of sacrifice, a whole day of hunger strike, in support for the Yolanda survivors. In the evening, a concert arranged by Tulong Kabataan was staged at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, Manila. Various musicians and youth artists advocating justice and hope for the Yolanda survivors participated.

Lack of affordable electricity and other utilities

On April 3 Thursday, it is the turn of Energy Sec. Carlos Petilla to receive the storm survivors’ “thanks.”

They said that in the storm-affected areas in the Visayas and Mindanao where electricity has finally been restored, the survivors now have to contend with steep power hikes. Worse, as Joel Abaño of People Surge said, residents asserting their rights to reoccupy their homes in areas declared as “No-Build zone” are being denied connection to electricity and water services. This effectively drives them away from their homes and livelihood, Abaño said.

Abaño told that of the thousands of households that used to be his neighbour in the coastal side of Tacloban City, only some 200 have braved to rebuild their houses in defiance of the “No-Build Zone” Policy. But they are being denied services of utility companies.

Most of Eastern Visayas bear the brunt of incompetence of the Aquino administration in the delivery of peoples’ basic needs, including power, said the People Surge at a press conference this Tuesday Apr 1. The group asked Petilla to stay true to his word, to make good on his promise to resign after his many repeated failures.

Betrayal in reconstruction

On April 4, People Surge is set to protest at former senator Panfilo LAcson’s rehab czar’s office in Nickel Asia Corp. Tower in Taguig City. Lacson is in charge of implementing the Eastern Visayas Rehabilitation plan called the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) or the PR-spun “Build Back Better.”

It consists of policies which the survivors said are nothing but betrayal of the peoples’ needs for rebuilding and rehabilitation. The plan is composed of the No-Build Zone Policy and micro-financing in agricultrure. It gives profitable business opportunities to big businesses via infrastructure projects and lending.

Based on the studies of People Surge, “Build Back Better” is patterned after other programs in calamity-stricken countries such as Haiti, that resulted in the failure to deliver prompt, appropriate and genuine services to the survivors. People Surge said those flawed “rehabilitation programs” yielded the same corruption-riddled bunkhouses and even worsened poverty in Haiti.

As the “rehabilitation program” is infrastructure-driven, the survivors said it is no wonder then why the Eastern Visayas region has been divided among big influential families for their huge business ventures.

Aquino branded as Waray pulos (inutile or useless)

Of the whole “Gang of Five,” the group said, Aquino is the epitome of “Waray Pulos.” Sr Edita Eslopor said Aquino’s “sorry” is meaningless and insincere if the demands of Yolanda survivors, which are more suited to their needs to help them get back on their feet, continue to be rejected.

The storm survivors chiefly blame Aquino for the militarized, corruption-riddled, politicized, inept delivery and implementation of relief and rehabilitation to the storm survivors.

“Aquino is criminally liable for the thousands of lives lost as a result of his ineptness and negligence in guaranteeing the safety and welfare of the people residing along Yolanda’s path,” Eslopor said. Before Yolanda made landfall, the rest of the world had been monitoring the Philippines because it was expected to be the strongest typhoon in history – but all the Aquino administration did as preparation was issue statements that they were “prepared.” Not much in action was observed, according to survivors.

“We were told about the likelihood of a strong ‘storm surge,’ but no one told us what it was,” Abaño said. He told that as a leader of a local citizens’ group, he went around his neighbourhood in the coastal area of Tacloban City. They asked many “learned people” about that ‘storm surge’ but no one can say anything more than this being “a very strong typhoon.”

Abaño said they concluded that they just had to be careful – some suggested seeking higher ground, but generally most of the residents asked, “where shall we go?”

Abaño himself survived the rapid rise of water, as much as 30 feet in just a few minutes, by clutching at cables of electricity. He survived the storm surge and saw many of his neighbors lying dead among the debris.

“We had been talking only the night before,” Abaño said about his dead neighbors. With the People Surge, Abaño is now one of the thousands demanding justice for the Aquino government’s criminal negligence.

“Aquino has been criminally negligent not only during the onslaught of Yolanda but even before and after it struck the country,” People Surge said. In Tacloban City for example, when night fell after most of their neighbors and houses were swept away, the children survivors were crying because of hunger but there was no food. It took four days before relief came, and it wasn’t from the government but from concerned organizations, the survivors said.

Aquino mainly and firstly sent in the military, citing as excuse the reported “looting” that happened, and disregarding the logical explanation by survivors that desperate heads of the family were driven to such desperate measures as their children cried for lack of food and water.

Today, the survivors of Yolanda’s wrath are also finding it difficult to get back on their feet, not only because they lack appropriate services from the government — on the contrary they are being “evicted” and forced to accept loans or “cosmetic” solutions of short-term jobs – they also have to contend with increased military deployment.

In Samar, storm survivors with People Surge told that the farmers are finding it hard to work on their field as soldiers accost them and question those who signed the People Surge petition.

“What’s wrong with making noise? We can’t stomach it anymore. They’re threatening our relatives in Eastern Visayas,” said Marisa Cabalijao of People Surge Western Samar chapter. Another survivor said that just because they are criticising the government’s response, “it doesn’t mean we are automatically members of the New Peoples’ Army.”

With Cabalijao, Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez urged the public to support the storm survivors. “It is really shocking what our kababayan suffered, and what they’re still suffering now,” Yñiguez said. He called on the public and his fellow Church people to “continue to open their eyes to what are really happening, because much of what are happening are not reaching the public.”

Benedictine nun Eslopor also urged the public to support their efforts and their week of protests against the Gang of Five, as they demand justice from the Aquino’s criminal negligence and flawed rehabilitation efforts. (

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March 28, 2014
4 months after typhoon Haiyan| Children still struggling to cope, survive

The family’s livelihood, relief, and schools are what children need most to cope and recover, but even these are still scarce in areas devastated by the supertyphoon, more than four months after.


MANILA – Children are the most vulnerable during and after a disaster. Thus, immediately after supertyphoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) struck the Visayas islands, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) conducted psychosocial first aid on children traumatized by the tragedy that hit their province.

The findings of the CRC and other NGOs servicing children were shared in a forum series dubbed Ulat Bulilit. In the second series of Ulat Bulilit, which was sponsored by the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, held last March 5, children’s organizations and People Surge, an organization of survivors of typhoon Yolanda, reported the situation of children after the typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in Eastern Visayas.

“When typhoon Yolanda hit large parts of Leyte and Samar, most of the victims did not expect the extent of the damage that it caused primarily to their lives, livelihood, and their communities. These unexpected or sudden events have caused trauma, emotional stress and anxiety, especially among children,” said Jacquiline Ruiz, executive director of CRC.

Data from the Save the Children revealed that 41 percent of the 14 million affected by super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) are children.

Psychological effects on children

Ruiz added: “Seeing that everything dear to them – their house, their school, their friends’ and neighbors’ houses – were all swept away by the typhoon had a great impact on children.”

(Photo by Pom Cahilog-Villanueva /
(Photo by Pom Cahilog-Villanueva /
Ruiz said children in Palo, Leyte where they conducted a psychosocial activity, manifested intense fear during and after the typhoon. “Children shared that they heard the whistle of the wind and saw their roof, their cows and other farm animals, and their houses being taken away by the strong winds.”

“They feared for the lives of their friends and classmates,” Ruiz added.

Ruiz said the manifestations of trauma among children include: recurring nightmares, sleep problems (sleeping too much or having difficulties sleeping), loss of appetite or compulsive eating, changes in energy level (either feels tired all the time when before, he or she was highly energetic, or suddenly active when previously quiet), poor concentration, feelings of guilt for being alive, mood changes, easily irritable or gets angry, easily scared or worrisome. Many of these manifestations, according to Ruiz, were present in children who survived the typhoon.

“Although the time allotted for the psychosocial processing was limited, we tried to help them identify their strengths and vulnerabilities. The trauma that the children experienced during the typhoon were made even worse because their families have been struggling to survive, especially since they lost their livelihood,” said Ruiz.

Continuing trauma

Jessica Darantinao, convener of People Surge said children in the municipality of Carigara, Leyte are suffering from hunger. “The government started to deliver relief goods four days after the typhoon,” she said.

“We just harvested the fruits of the tumbled banana trees in our yard even if it was not yet ripe. We cooked the saba banana and put sugar so somehow it tasted better.”

“Adults could stand hunger for days but not the children. When there was no more food left, the children cried because of hunger,” said Darantinao who got emotional.

Darantinao added: “People in Eastern Visayas are already poor even before the typhoon. We could hardly find food to eat everyday even before typhoon Yolanda came.” She said that before the typhoon, an average family earned a meager P43 ($0.96) per day and those who were able to land jobs in factories earned P110 ($2.45) per day. “Some leave the province to work in nearby cities or in Manila. Children are even forced to work to help augment the income of the parents.”

The latest report from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) showed that Eastern Visayas is the third poorest region in the Philippines. Thirty seven percent of its population or an estimated 4.2 million people are living below the poverty line.

“Eastern Visayas also has the highest percentage of undernourished children, affecting 20-30 percent, and malnourished children, affecting 60-70 percent,” Darantinao added.

Darantinao said the most effective way to help them recover from the devastation brought about by typhoon Yolanda is to help them restore their livelihood. Darantinao said 69.5 percent of the population in Eastern Visayas is from the agriculture and fisheries sector. People Surge’s data show that the damage on agriculture in Eastern Visayas has reached P65 billion ($1.449 billion).

“The typhoon has greatly damaged coconut trees and other crops, as well as fishing boats. She said the government estimate of the damage on agriculture in the region is conservative, pegged at P31 billion ($691 million) as of January.

That is why, Darantinao said, some of the survivors under the People Surge are here in Manila to demand to that the government addresses their immediate needs. She said that among their demands are for the distribution of P40,000 ($891) cash relief to every family affected by the typhoon and continuous distribution of relief goods until they are able to get back to their normal lives.

Kharlo Manano, secretary general of Salinlahi said the dismal conditions of women and children after the disaster make them vulnerable to sex trafficking. According to Manano, children as young as 10 years old are made to perform sexual acts with customers for a meager amount of P20 ($.45).
“And this could not have happened if only the government acted immediately after the disaster,” said Manano.


A report released by World Vision, Unicef, Save the Children and Plan International, entitled “After Yolanda: what children need, think and recommend” showed that children want to immediately return to school.

The said report documented the findings of consultations conducted with 124 children and young people affected by typhoon Yolanda. “The consultations were conducted in the hard-hit areas of Capiz, Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte and East and West Samar, and were aimed at seeking the views of children on the humanitarian situation, to find out what their priorities are and ask for suggestions to improve the responses to the disaster.”

According to the report, the priorities identified by children and young people are rebuilding homes, restoring electricity and returning to school.

According to the report, all the children and young people who participated in the consultations spoke about the importance of education. “Most children have already resumed schooling, either in Temporary Learning Centers set up by local authorities with the support of international agencies or in schools that were not damaged extensively by the typhoon. In some places, including North Cebu and Iloilo, classes are being held in the morning and cleaning and repairs of school buildings are taking place in the afternoon. Children in Iloilo said that they do not think a half day of classes is enough because school is the place where they normally spend most of their play time. However, in areas of West and East Samar where consultations were held, children reported that their classes have not yet started,” the report read.

The Department of Education (DepEd) said 17,620 classrooms in the Visayas region and Palawan needed to be replaced and repaired.

Manano said getting back to school helps children cope. “The government did not even immediately initiate rebuilding of schools, it was the international and national non-government organizations that responded to this particular need of the children.”

NGOs taking the lead in disaster response

Manano criticized the government’s delayed disaster response, especially to the needs of children. “We should take note that national and international NGOs have initiated immediate disaster response to the affected areas in Eastern Visayas when it should be the government – the country’s primary duty bearer.

Save the Children, for one, immediately set up “child center facilities” in areas in Eastern Visayas since last year.

Child Fund’s child protection officer Allan Nunez said they set up child center spaces during the first three months right after the typhoon. They also provided psychosocial interventions. They are also working closely with the Unicef and Save the Children in addressing the nutrition needs, protection and education of children in 40 heavily-damaged municipalities.

“The government should adhere to the demands of the victims, especially to the needs of children. The NGOs are only here to support,” said Karl Mark Labagala, project officer of Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (Arcsea).

Ruiz pointed out that children have their own characteristics, capacities and skills to help them cope with and overcome their trauma. External factors such as the family or the support system are also important. “It is important to note that these children need help to cope and recover from the devastation brought by the disaster.” (

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