Opinion

FYI, It’s Not Okay to Politicize a Natural Disaster

As Mindanao grapples with the aftershocks of the Cotabato earthquakes, we need to understand that aid should and must be color-blind.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/PIXABAY
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Of all the things to politicize, a natural disaster that has gravely affected thousands of Filipinos is not one of them. That should be a given for all rational thinking citizens, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

It was a good laugh when Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the church Kingdom of Jesus Christ claimed he “stopped” the Mindanao earthquake. But people stopped laughing when a screenshot of a deleted tweet circulated online from a netizen who allegedly addressed supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte. It said: “Hindi pa ba niyo ma-gets? Gusto na kayong lamunin ng lupa. Magdasal na kayo at humingi ng patawad.”

It doesn’t take that much effort to read between the lines and understand that the netizen implied that the pro-Duterte supporters deserved to be swallowed by the 6.5-magnitude North Cotabato earthquake that rocked the entire island of Mindanao on the eve of Halloween.

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An estimated 400 people were injured, 150,000 families were affected, and the death toll is currently at 21 and is expected to climb. Locals in hard-hit areas have taken to begging on the highway for basic necessities like rice and shelter. The Philippine Air Force is working around the clock to evacuate communities in isolated areas. There are videos and pictures of the heavy damage the quake wrought on schools, apartment buildings, and hotels.

And to provide even more context, the October 31 earthquake was the third in a series of 6+ magnitude earthquakes that hit Mindanao just a few days prior. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has already warned residents to expect aftershocks leading up to Christmas. The damage on infrastructure will no doubt cost the government millions, and this doesn’t even include the toll the quake has had on the quality of life of the Mindanaoans.

In times of calamity, political alliances should hold no ground when livelihoods are at stake. When thousands are scrambling to rebuild their homes, no one deserves to be told that they deserve to be hit by an earthquake. As families are struggling to get back on their feet, help, aid, and assistance should be color-blind.

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Mindanao might be a stronghold for the current administration’s supporters, and the President’s supporters have often been at the receiving end of criticism. But that certainly does not justify the devastation of an earthquake. An earthquake is not “retribution.” It’s a goddamn natural disaster.

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“Every curse, insult, threat is a blessing in disguise. The message must have hit home. Insight: Even the most evil fear karma,” said a follow-up tweet from the Harvard-educated netizen whose name is known in the political campaigning sphere.

“The Mindanaoans who are not DDS need all the help and prayers,” said another.

To make it clear, everyone, regardless of political association, needs aid in Mindanao. Not just the ones “who are not DDS.”

The tweets and the equally unkind replies are a testament to the fierce polarizing effect of politics in the Philippines. All sides have become so disillusioned from one another that it’s now the people who have been caught in the middle of their warring beliefs. We’ve created a culture of retribution and revenge. To be frank, it has made us unkind, unfair, and inhuman, at a moment in time that needs our solidarity the most.

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Not to mention, it’s taken away from the more important issue at hand—the people of Mindanao, who could care less about the self-righteous tweets of politically ostracizing individuals. To them, what matters are food, shelter, and the promise that tomorrow, they’ll get their lives back on track. In the end, they could use less of social media squabbling and more empathy and relief goods from those safe and unaffected from the Cotabato quakes.

Insight: Kindness should not be reserved for the people you agree with.

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