Church leaders in the Philippines have warned against politicians who take advantage of the ongoing humanitarian response for disaster victims to advance their political agenda.
Father Angel Cortez, head of the Ecological Justice Interfaith Movement, reminded people that “they do not owe anything [to] these politicians and elected officials.”
“It is the responsibility of people in public office to help Filipinos affected by calamities,” said the priest, adding that relief distribution and recovery assistance are part of their mandate.
The priest said he received reports that elected officials have taken advantage of the government’s efforts to aid typhoon victims “for early electioneering.”
He said politicians can campaign ahead of the 2022 polls “but taxpayers must not be paying for it.”
“These government responses are funded by public money not by these politicians,” said Father Cortez.
At least two senators drew flak after hanging posters with their names and faces on it at a road clearing operation by the Philippine Army in typhoon-ravaged towns in the Bicol region.
Father Warren Francis Puno, head of the ecology ministry of the Diocese of Lucena, said the politicians’ action was “shameless and insensitive.”
“Who would want to see their faces in the middle of a catastrophic event?” said the priest. “By placing their names in these government works, they are posing as if it is their own project,” he added.
The priest also denounced government officials “who have the guts to post photos of their vacation or party in social media while thousands are suffering.”
“These kinds of people have no place in public office. They should not be trusted with a very crucial position in the government that could save lives in times like this,” he said.
Father Puno said during times of calamities “all government resources, including officials, must be placed on board to assist the people to emerge from this adversity.”
“It is high time for public officials to practice sensitivity, solidarity, and compassion,” he said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported on Nov. 15 a total of 285,978 families or more than 1.1 million Filipinos affected by Typhoon Ulysses.
Close to 400,000 individuals have been displaced in eight regions in the northern Philippines while the agriculture sector has suffered about US $20.1 million worth of damage.