Groping in Murky Waters

As early as 1:14 A.M. today, Cagayan River water levels at the Buntun Bridge in Tuguegarao City have overflowed 13 meters — surpassing the highest recorded rate since 1972. Muddy waters from the Cagayan River began flowing toward Isabela, Ifugao, Kalinga, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino.

The dam operators decided to release the excess water. The water releases an utmost amount of 3,491 cubic meters per second. If these numbers are not spine-tingling enough, imagine filling more than a million gallons of water — in just split seconds.

The great flood happened.

As of writing, 156 barangays in 24 towns of Cagayan province are engulfed with floodwaters, with almost 50,000 residents affected by the aftermath of Ulysses storm surge and heavy monsoon rains. These figures continue to rise as search and rescue operations are experiencing several issues. Roads are impassible as they are capped with large piles of mud and water. Despite conducting early retrieval operations, the pitch-black scene makes it hard to view possible survivors. Rubber boats cannot push through as electric current from live wires, and active generators conduct high electricity levels. To make conditions worse, aerial retrieval operations are limited since volunteer pilots are not trained enough to maneuver with heavy rains and extreme darkness.

With hopes getting smaller and smaller, the poor lives of our kababayans are now groping in murky waters.

In situations wherein life is moving faster than the speed of light, preemptive rescue operations should be conducted. Local government officials could hardly provide rescue materials needed in situations like this. Despite the fact that they’re prepared as best as possible, preventive measures could have reduced property loss, livelihood, and, most especially — life.

Press media in the Philippines are suffocating in danger as press freedom is continuing to be oppressed. It has been six months since the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) filed a “cease and desist” order resulting in the abrupt closure of ABS-CBN free-to-air broadcasting operations. Forty-two television stations, ten digital broadcast channels, eighteen FM stations, and five AM stations are sequentially signed-off. Despite ABS-CBN continues its limited operations through social media platforms through its online properties (Facebook, YouTube); the great loss of means of spreading information inhibit the capacity of this network to immediately “resume serving the public through its broadcasts,” as mentioned the network’s recent appeal against NTC.

Known as the major local providers in far-fetched provincial areas, the ABS-CBN network’s television and radio programs give a multitude of the required information. Besides providing local dialect versions of news reports, the radio stations have programs that constantly give rescue hotlines, evacuation centers, and hourly updates. In a crisis situation, radio programs continue to run due to their capacity to run on a lower frequency (compared to telecommunication providers).

In the Cagayan province alone, ABS-CBN has several regional free-to-air television stations and radio stations located in Cagayan Valley, Tuguegarao, Aparri, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Laoag, and Santiago. These are considered the major media provider by the Cagayan locals. But with ABS-CBN restriction in operating these stations, information is only accessible on their online platforms — which is almost unreachable knowing that telecommunications are probably disconnected, and android phones that can access mobile data are not available for poor Filipinos.

This is where information dissemination takes an essential spot in every calamity.

Media of all kinds (mainstream, digital, alternative) takes a huge step in spreading useful and relevant information. Importantly, vital images and information from the Ulysses aftershock are coming from groups of campus journalists, community journalists, organizations, and even netizens. Humanitarian mobilization overtakes the lack of response from the national government.

Truth to be told, the lack of urgency from the Duterte administration is taking away lives — the same way as natural disasters are unavoidably causing destruction. The main difference is; these calamities are only stepping lightly on us Filipinos — compared to the four years of penurious responses of this fentanyl-induced leader who spews empty words left and right. The same critic-sensitive leader is the leading cause of ABS-CBN closing its doors — the exact moment former President Marcos downplayed the same media network.

Our nation’s information pool is in its great crisis: main media platforms are closed, propaganda websites continuously spread “fake news,” and false propaganda, rumors, and speculations are treated as ‘true’ journalism. This emergent increase in fabrication has produced information chaos. But where are these superficial media outlets standing in the time of crisis? PTV-4, a government-funded station, occupies press releases, sports events, and interviews more than the much-needed attention in relief operations, disaster information, and others. The other DDS propaganda machines are busy mumbling against the opposition, or they’re taking hand-fisted photos near the dolomite-covered bay in Manila.

The people have taken more than damage it can handle. The COVID-19 pandemic is restricting relief operations due to its quarantine protocols. Simultaneously, people in evacuation centers would bother less on social distancing, for they are worrying their lives after the waters are through and their mud-drenched houses are revealed. The Cagayan people do not need another half-hearted plea from a president willing to “swim in the waters” to help.

The Filipino’s tale of resiliency is not your source of entertainment, Mister President.


Maria Kristelle C. Jimenez

Maria Kristelle C. Jimenez works as a freelance writer, layout artist, and website specialist in Pampanga. Some of her works have been recognized by the Saranggola Blog Awards and the Gawad Digmaang Rosas. Her topics revolves around new media, pop culture, and the postmodern. Email Maria at: maria@voxpopuliph.com.

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