Eyebrows raised over use of funds and logistics for Congress session in Batangas

January 24, 2020 - 4:42 PM
The plenary session at Batangas convention center (Alan Peter Cayetano/Released)

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano held a plenary session in Batangas despite the imminent hazardous eruption of the Taal Volcano.

State seismologists still retains the Alert Level 4 in Taal Volcano more than a week after it erupted, which sent heavy ashfall in the areas of Calabarzon and Metro Manila.

A total of 104 House members traveled to Batangas City for the first out-of-town assembly on January 22.

It took place at the Batangas City Convention Center, which is about 3 kilometers away from the Batangas Sports Complex, an evacuation center for affected families of the eruption.

Cayetano did acknowledge the change was a minor inconvenience to the people of Batangas, particularly to the representatives of the province who are supposed to be busy with the ongoing relief efforts.

He argued, however, that transporting the House of Representatives for a session in a disaster-stricken location was done for symbolic reasons and out of the lawmakers’ compassion for the eruption victims. These

“I think the symbolism at ‘yung pakikiramay much, much outweighs [everything else]. So if you’re going to ask me are we going to do it again, I think we should. Basta’t ‘yung circumstances, allowed,” the speaker said.

He also said the lawmakers even opted to ride one bus to lessen logistical issues.

“Di ba logistically mas may problema kung 300 kami at different times pumunta dito? Kasi wala pa akong nakausap na kongresista na ayaw tumulong on their own,” Cayetano said.

Nonoy Espina, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chairman, described this as a cover-up for the government’s shortcomings.

“Alan Peter is right, it was symbolic of a government that has to resort to symbolism to cover up its incompetence, venality, corruption and bloodthirstiness,” Espina said.

Alan Peter is right, it was symbolic of a government that has to resort to symbolism to cover up its incompetence, venality, corruption and bloodthirstiness.

Posted by Nonoy Espina on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

One Twitter user noted that what the eruption victims needed were resources to keep them safe and to sustain their stay in temporary shelters as they moved away from their homes.

“What the victims need is for resources to be focused on keeping them safe and with adequate sustenance. What they need are people who put paramount value on their well-being,” the user said.

Several politicians have also previously downplayed and dismissed the warnings and advisories of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology despite them being backed by science.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. accused the agency of failing to provide information about the Taal Volcano. Meanwhile, another representative of Cavite Abraham Tolentino downplayed the alert level and sought to defy the order by the Department of Interior and Local Government to temporarily cease operations in the province.

Vice Mayor Charlie Natanauan of Talisay, Batangas also questioned the credibility of Phivolcs’ advisories.

Finally, Sen. Tito Sotto suggested that cloudseeding should be done in areas affected by Taal Volcano’s ashfall, which PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum immediately disagreed on.