The country has been in a state of turmoil ever since being ravaged by several typhoons the past few weeks, so it’s slightly understandable that citizens are seeking gracious contributions from wherever – and whoever – they can.
This includes Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who made headlines recently for flying out to Colombia to judge the Miss Universe Colombia pageant. While the trip has been scheduled way ahead, the fact that the timing seems off didn’t sit well with some netizens, as seen in her Instagram post below:
“Cat, why are you in Colombia instead of helping your own province deal with the typhoon? I have always been [a] fan but especially with travelling during a pandemic? What example does taking this job send to everyone?” one user @kopkhunkha typed. The account has not been confirmed to belong to a Filipino, but it set off a rare sentiment, one that demanded that the beauty queen should be on the ground in a time of calamity.
Catriona already clarified her trip as being planned months prior, and that she has been working with Philippine Red Cross to provide aid to typhoon-battered areas. Netizens also went to Catriona’s rescue, saying that the beauty queen doesn’t have to cover every little thing she’s done to help.
Then again, did she really need to say it?
At the same time that the brief exchange transpired, netizens over at Twitter were also occupied with making the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo trend. Born out of resentment towards the absence and incompetence of the government amid recent disasters, the hashtag was meant to expose the president’s lack of a prompt response to the typhoon victims’ calls for help.
Similarly – and not surprisingly – apologists of the current administration were also quick to defend the president, saying that he doesn’t need to be on-site to prove his presence. In a TikTok video that has gone viral before it was taken down, user Jam Magno criticized the hashtag:
To summarize, Catriona and President Duterte got called out for roughly the same reason: for not being with those who were affected when the typhoon wreaked havoc.
At first, we thought the question arising from these confrontations was: who should we expect to help whenever typhoons destroy our people’s homes and livelihoods?
Then we quickly came up with the correct answer: no one.
By this, we mean that no one is obliged to help. Period. Private citizens – businesses, philanthropists, and even the common national – extend relief out of their own virtuous volition to care for their fellow citizens. We are grateful for their deeds, but they are not in any way obliged to help and to receive our thanks.
Additionally, “no one” also means that those who are mandated to extend help shouldn’t have to be pressured by expectations to do so. With or without a hashtag, public officials have to enact their mandate to reach out to those who need help the most.
“Alam na po nila dapat ‘yan” – this is a more concise way of putting it.
Private citizens have been pooling together everything that they can to provide financial relief to those who need it. They have been stretching themselves too thin responding to tragedies that happen way too often for relief operations to become a routine.
Inevitably, this will lead to “donor fatigue,” where they just stop and assuming the responsibility of providing relief simply because other entities who are tasked to do that exact job, aren’t.
Entities like the national government, for instance.
Thus, we humbly suggest that we stop asking “who” should help. We shouldn’t even be asking “why” those whose duty is to assume accountability and command responsibility aren’t doing that.
Instead, we believe we should be asking “how long” – how long can we resort to taking out of our own pockets to assist our disaster-stricken kababayans, how long until we run out of options to prevent natural calamities from happening, and how long until we mount our energies to make those in power pay for their negligence.
Given that citizens like Catriona Gray are quicker to heed the call for help than our own national government, let’s hope that comes sooner rather than later.