Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do The Math

This article was written by Inday Espina-Varona and was posted on Facebook.


One doesn’t need to be a member of Mensa, or a graduate of Harvard or Georgetown universities, or even “just” of the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo, to appreciate the math lessons brought by Typhoon “Ondoy.”

Thanks to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a number of her aides, we know that national government deserved a pat on the back for topping its disaster-relief effort success benchmark (Katrina, heaven help us). Rainfall in 24 hours -- Ondoy: 455 millimeters; Katrina: 250 millimeters.

By afternoon of September 29, the death toll was at 250, and mounting. Half a million were homeless, 1.8 million affected – their homes intact but valuables destroyed by inundation in filthy waters.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) estimates property losses at P2 billion. (P5 billion as of 7 pm) But NDCC chief and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro says paralysis of many enterprises, from small neighborhood stores to multi-million-peso manufacturing plants, costs the country hundreds of millions daily.

We’ve also learned that President Arroyo, Vice President Noli de Castro, and all Cabinet officials are donating their salaries for the next two months to help relief operations. The President and the Vice President get P50,000 (P70,000 for the President) a month; Cabinet members, P30,000.

That means the President is giving P140,000 – enough to buy one six-seater wooden banca with engine or three rubber boats (P37,000 each).

I mention boats because these were the missing links in Onday rescue and relief operations.

I still don’t know how many vehicles were blocking rescuers’ paths on Saturday afternoon. I do know that at around 6 pm of that day Teodoro was admitting the mighty NDCC had 25 rubber boats – half without engines. (Of course, the vehicles blocking rescuers were not left on the streets by joy-riding delinquents but by workers and students and other folk who were not told noon would find them in danger of drowning.)

The dearth in rubber boats and bancas meant that people were trapped on rooftops for 12 hours and longer. By afternoon of the 28th, the NDCC said government workers had rescued 8,000 – of the half a million homeless and many more affected. Do the math.

Metro Manila has a 15-million population. It has 1699 barangays (as of June 2008). For every barangay to have one banca would cost the government P169 million. Rizal province, equally devastated, has 188 barangays, another 18.8 million. That’s not even 20% of the price of President Arroyo’s 1-billion dream jet.

Do the math. For P1billion, the government could buy a fleet of 10,000 bancas.

But we don’t even have to talk about Mrs. Arroyo’s Christmas stocking. Let’s just focus on her gustatory delights during a recent US trip.

A leaked report said that while Filipinos mourned the death of former President Corazon Aquino, Mrs. Arroyo and her allies were feasting and drinking at the hoity-toity Le Cirque in New York City, to the tune of $20,000. Another leak said the presidential party also had a $15,000 lunch in a Washington D.C. steakhouse. Still another report said a second expensive dinner had occurred in Le Cirque. If this last dinner cost only $15,000 the tab for all three feasts would have reached P2.45 million.
Do the math: 25 bancas.

Still, those dinners represented just a fraction of expenses in that US trip. A report by quotes Susanna Vargas, Malacañang’s deputy executive secretary for administration and finance, as saying that Mrs. Arroyo’s party spent $66,000 in Washington D.C. and $59,000 in New York for various service tips ( That’s P6 million.
Do the math: 60 bancas.

But even that is just spare change to Mrs. Arroyo’s overall travel expenses, which sparked outrage when a Commission on Audit report showed these had been partly funded by contingent funds – by their very nature, monies set aside for emergencies. Because Mrs. Arroyo, the economist, couldn’t balance her travel budget, some P95 million incurred by the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) were charged to the Palace’s contingent funds.(See above url)

Do the math: 950 bancas -- more than half of what Metro Manila-Rizal would need if each barangay is appropriated only one banca.

It is said that every peso that goes to the pockets of corrupt government officials is a peso taken from public services. I’m going to ignore the ZTE scandal, which was a preempted scandal, and focus on the ill-gotten wealth of General Carlos Garcia, former Armed Forces comptroller.

The good general is accused of skimming P300 million from the AFP’s budget. Even if you don’t care about soldiers dying because of a dearth in rescue equipment, you can do a different kind of math: 3,000 bancas.

I think P300 million is a very conservative estimate. Garcia’s son, Tim, just posted a “million-dollar bail,” according to an article by Peter Davis for “The Daily Beast” website.
Do the math: 490 bancas.

If Davis’ description of the young Garcia’s Trump Towers hothouse pad and its contents is true, add another $2 million. (Another 980 bancas). No way did his old man stop at P300 million. But you get the math.

The cited cases alone are enough (P550.45 million) to equip each Metro Manila-Rizal barangay with 2 bancas with change left for petrol. Or 14,877 rubber boats.

And we’re not even talking about Mikey or his father.


YeyenSsi said...

hmmm, kinsa man poy makahuna huna og bili og banca oy, maayo'g pareha sa kang noah adtong una nga naay warning, para makahimo og arko. lol.

seriously, yeah, i was kinda shock that for many people to evacuate, the boats were only a handful.

this experience taught us well and hard.

mikay said...

I think the point of the whole article is just to illustrate how much can be done with such amount of money. It's bad enough that the President of a poor country and her posse have $20k dinners. It's worse when such money could have come from "borrowed" contingency funds. Don't get me wrong. I know PGMA should not be blamed for everything that is wrong with our country. Let's just say that the Ondoy tragedy is the sum of a number of follies. Bad governance is just one of them.