it is a waste of time, but also utterly insensitive and absolutely unnecessary for anyone at all in government to be talking at this point about looting on the one hand, and proposing a level-up on the punishment against looters on the other, obviously contextualized as it is in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
this is what Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo Biazon is doing by filing House Bill 3367. he is also missing the point.because the looting in Tacloban did not happen under normal circumstances. it happened under extraordinary circumstances — say, the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the world. but also it had everything to do with government failing to provide security and relief goods, in a timely and just manner to people who were going into day 2 after the typhoon with nothing to eat and no potable water.
but according to the congressman, the looting was offensive:
huh? i’d like to know which victims Biazon is talking about here. because in none of the reports, and nowhere in the few interviews i was able to do in Tacloban, did anyone at all say that the looting offended them. neither do people think that those who became looters were “recalcitrant and heartless.” not at all. in fact even first-person accounts and testimonies of survivors have talked about how this was the only way people survived. stories of how looters were sharing with others anything at all that they were getting from the groceries and malls also points not to a “heartlessness” as it did to compassion and bayanihan.
Step down your high horse from time to time. Dont be so quick to judge looters, i was looter. I looted medecine for the red cross, milk and food for the children. Walked 4 hours and dug into 2 foot empty plastic bottles to get at least something to drink and bring back some. The people who took flat screen tv’s were the same people who offered to give me a drink and some lugaw. Those who looked like ex-convicts offered me something to eat. Almost all the time they are willing to lend a hand when you said you really need something. What they didnt show on the news was how people were helping each other amidst the catastrophe.
in truth, the only people who would’ve been “more pained” by news of looting were the big businessmen of Tacloban, they who did not have the heart or the sense to just open up their stores, to a city hungry and thirsty for kindness and nourishment, on day one, day two after the storm. in truth, this does nothing but make businessmen happy, they whose stores have enough excess, the fresh produce in which would have rotted in the aftermath of this storm anyway, without electricity and transportation.
Biazon should be looking into why looting happened, whose fault was it, and what can be done better next time. if he were less focused on the notion of looting-as-crime, he might be able to see that the only reason it even happened was because of government paralysis in a time of crises, where national government did not distribute relief goods in a timely manner. people were hungry and thirsty, counting days and nights of absolute ennui, having lost homes and families and whole towns, without a sense of government or authority in control. that will turn any of us into looters.
even Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s take on the looting, days after Typhoon Haiyan was about the need for control tempered with compassion:
There’s a lot of sensitivities involved here. Application of laws should thus be tempered with compassion, mercy or liberality. What is imperative is real and physical presence of authorities, both local and national, to maintain peace and order.
and this is the thing: if any government official, including Biazon, cannot see the looting in Tacloban to have been a form of survival, then this government will never know to prepare for tragedies of this magnitude. because they will not know of victims’ desperation enough to act quickly and with urgency to bring food and water to the people.
Biazon is creating a smoke screen, pointing a finger at looters, instead of pointing a finger at a national government that chose not to take control, which pushed people to loot in order to survive. and as long as Biazon and any other congressman and senator has his or her eye on the wrong ball, then we are missing the opportunity to engage with questions that actually matter, because these mean learning from the tragedy that was Typhoon Haiyan.
but maybe that’s precisely the point.