THE TYPHOONS that ravaged the southern Luzon provinces earlier this month have sent us into a frenzy. No surprise there. In fact, we reacted right on cue.

It is a story with an abused plot (much like Philippine movies): disaster strikes, and we rise up united to fight off the calamity and put to rights the destruction it leaves in its wake.We do this so immediately that it almost always seems superficial and only half-sincere,

If that is not enough, we go further, condemning those we blame for the tragedy. All of a sudden, the entire machinery of the government, and particularly Congress, runs so smooth you won’t notice the new laws passed supposedly to avert a similar misfortune in the future. Another variant of this part of the story would be the Senate conducting an investigation supposedly in aid of legislation on the matter.

Then the disaster passes, life goes back to normal, except perhaps in the areas struck dead-on. Folks go back to their indifferent lives, the new laws are hardly put to effect, politicians stop grandstanding and wait for other opportunities to do it again, and the victims end up waiting for help promised but only so far.

Our history brims with times when we as Filipinos showed flashes of brilliance: Edsa II, for instance, and arguably, to cite a more recent event, the revelation of the projected financial crisis if we don’t manage our economy well. In the first example, we topple what was supposedly a corrupt presidency only to allow liberties on his successors. In the second, rather than going at the root of the problem which is mismanagement, we appeal to sentiment, hailing everyone to give a peso a day to drive the crisis away.

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The Pinoy is short-sighted as well as heroic. We forget the lessons of history, or perhaps, we do not see them in history. What we see is only the momentary need. We address it, then go back to our old ways. Our solutions are temporary; our philosophy is to leave well enough alone.

This is not to criticize the efforts and volunteerism put forward so magnanimously by the many different groups including UST organizations. Indeed, this is to extol them for their selfless help. Without them, the government could not possibly manage the situation by itself.

But this is also to call the attention of government, that it should stop acting like a resounding gong, spewing platitudes in a time when action is most needed. Arroyo’s call for Filipinos to unite is a surplusage; she could have just looked out of her palace window to see that the masses have taken charge and, eventually, the upper hand in the situation.

Government should also realize that finger-pointing the illegal loggers would do only so much good. So far, the measures it has forwarded—a suspension of all logging and a possible 25-year ban pursuant to a bill about to be released by the law mill—are all but substantial remedies.

Admittedly, our environment laws are very inadequate, but they do provide for a condition that is of extreme importance before one can cut a single tree, that is, reforestation. Still, illegal loggers, side by side with the legal ones, sheared our forests for all they are worth, leaving nothing to hinder these flash floods.

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So what if a new law is passed? There is no guarantee that it will not meet the same fate as its predecessors. And what of the rest of us after this tragic time has passed? What of the victims?

It is one thing to stand up after falling, and completely another to stay up. We should learn our lessons, and soon.


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