Two separate violent occurrences shook our world in the past week. The first was political while the second was natural. On July 24, 2022, a shooting incident marred what should have been a joyous occasion, the graduation ceremonies of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law. A gunman shot former mayor Rosita Furigay, of Lamitan City, Basilan; her assistant Victor George Capistrano; and, security guard Jeneven Bandiola. All died because of the shooting.
Then on the morning of July 27, northern Luzon experienced a violent tremor that emanated from the province of Abra and was felt quite strongly in many parts of the National Capital Region (NCR). As I write this column, 10 people have died due to the magnitude 7.0 quake and while authorities have yet to release an official estimate of damages to property, we have seen pictures on social media depicting tremendous damage to buildings and sadly to some historical structures in the Ilocos Region.
I offer my sincerest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in these two separate tragedies. I cannot begin to fathom the pain and anguish of those who lost their family members and even those who lost hard-earned properties.
The two tragic events are worlds apart, of course. The Ateneo shooting is still being investigated but there are indications that the motivation is political. At any rate, as horrific as the shooting was, this was not the first time that political violence has spilled over to the capital. I remember in 2007, the Batasan Pambansa Complex was rocked by an explosion that took the life of 2 persons including the Representative of Basilan at the time. I was in the Senate that time but I was deeply affected since I spent the first nine years of my political career at the lower house.
Violence has no place in a democracy. We should fight with ideas and policies not with guns and goons. As voters we should exercise our right not just to vote but to live in a peaceful and prosperous society. And I think this is one reason why President Bongbong Marcos’s campaign message of unity resonated with voters. People are tired of the political violence that seems to be always present when we hold elections.
I believe the long-term solution is economic development. Violence disrupts economic activities so when people are invested in the economy they have no patience for anything that would impede it. This is one of the reasons why the President’s SONA focused on economic recovery. Rebuilding our economy will allow us to address the other problems that we have.
This should also answer the criticisms of some that the SONA ‘failed’ to mention this or that issue. As I wrote before, it is impossible for any speech to cover all topics. But the SONA’s inability to include a particular subject matter does not mean it is excluded in the government’s agenda. What PBBM’s SONA made very clear is that, for the most part, many of our problems will be solved by a robust economy.
This is true even with disaster resilience or disaster management. We need resources to be able to equip local governments with the tools and knowledge in case natural disasters, like the Abra earthquake, strike our communities again. The focus should be strengthening local capacities because they are the first responders. Even in terms of the rebuilding phase, local authorities should understand better how to go about building back better.
I can understand the hesitation of PBBM in signing into law bills that create new departments or another layer of bureaucracy for every issue that we face. It runs contrary to efficient government especially if there is already an agency tasked to do the same tasks.
The Abra earthquake should be a wake up call. We need to improve our capabilities in terms of responding immediately to disasters. But more importantly, we need to muster the resources and the efficiency to rebuild communities after calamities. There is nothing more heart-wrenching than families still suffering years, sometimes decades, after the tragedy that they have experienced.