‘A mere aberration’

PGMA at the 34th National Prayer Breakfast

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers a speech at the 34th National Prayer Breakfast on November 26, 2009.

Based on several news reports, the death toll for the Ampatuan Massacre (also referred to as the “Maguinanao Massacre”) has risen from 57 to 64, though authorities have dismissed the new figure, saying that they had stopped the excavations yesterday.

It is unknown when the additional bodies were uncovered—or, as has been remarked, if these are in fact part of the current crime being investigated, considering that Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the alleged mastermind, is known to be a “hatchet man” (“chainsaw man” would not be inappropriate)—but the gruesome details remain the same: a group consisting of several women, among them lawyers and at least 30 media workers, set off in a convoy of six vehicles from Buluan on the morning of November 23, Monday, to witness the proxy filing of the certificate of candidacy of gubernatorial hopeful Ishmael Mangudadatu at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) office in Shariff Aguak. The group had previously made separate requests to the army and to the police for a security escort, but had been turned down. The convoy, along with a carful of innocent motorists, was stopped by armed men, who, led by Mayor Ampatuan, Jr., abducted, tortured, and killed most of the members of the group, in one stroke shattering the traditional shields of the powerless.

No cases of beheading or rape, which were earlier alleged, have been mentioned by investigators yet, though practically all the women were sexually mutilated. A backhoe emblazoned with the legend, “Property of the province of Maguindanao – Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr.”, which had been dispatched on a project some weeks before, was used to crush the vehicles and dig mass graves for the victims, some of whom were buried alive. (The operator of the machine is the subject of a manhunt.) Upon hearing that the military was approaching, the militiamen immediately fled, leaving the cover-up work undone, but the entire atrocity reportedly took little more than an hour to carry out.

Local and international organizations, as well as governments around the world, have condemned the massacre—a barbarity that could very well be, and hopefully is, the nadir of a political culture predicated on guns, goons, and gold—as a crime against humanity, and demanded the swift dispensation of justice. Public anger and despair at the murders continue to intensify, with various sectors holding vigils or rallies.

In view of the universal outrage at the carnage, it is inexplicable, unacceptable, and unconscionable that the government has been unwilling or unable to move quickly and decisively against the perpetrators, instead resorting to dissemblance, diminishment, and delay, perhaps out of the belief that people will fall victim to amnesia after having vented their spleens, as they have in the wake of other tragedies, or in the morbid expectation that an exponentially more horrific, and hence potentially more mediagenic, catastrophe will take place.

In dealing with the Ampatuan clan, which has enjoyed a close relationship with the current administration, the government has had its kid gloves firmly on from day one, resulting in strange contortions of rhetoric and action that would be funny under other circumstances. Malacañang conspicuously understated the massacre as “an incident between two families in Mindanao” with which it had nothing to do. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno downplayed the expulsion of the Ampatuans from the ruling party by chairman Gilbert Teodoro as an expression of justified, but ultimately personal, outrage. For his part, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita could only muster an oblique plea, saying, “It definitely would help if, those who feel that they are already being considered as suspects, for them to turn themselves in and cooperate with the law enforcement agencies.”

The police have also said that the backhoe and witness accounts are insufficient evidence. Meanwhile, the bodies are fast deteriorating, as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has not even used lime to preserve them.

Although Ampatuan, Jr. has been charged and is now in custody, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina was recorded as having backtracked from using the term “suspect”, and officials actually waited for the mayor to surrender last November 26, Thursday, instead of taking the initiative and hauling him in for questioning. (Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera stressed that he was arrested.) And despite finally being tagged as the primary suspect, Ampatuan, Jr. was not handcuffed as he was brought to General Santos for an inquest, and then to Manila for detention.

Notwithstanding the self-professed exultance of the Palace at the news that the mayor was in custody, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo made a point of asserting that the order to nab Ampatuan, Jr. was not issued by the President, who will remain friends with the Ampatuans.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself did not even make a statement until two days after the crime, on November 25, Wednesday—and a most perfunctory statement at that:

Her speech at the 34th National Prayer Breakfast the following day, which she had designated as a National Day of Prayer and Mourning for the victims, was not a significant improvement, crammed as it was with vague and passive gestures toward God and justice.

It was perhaps the voluble—not to mention reliably inane—Press Secretary Cerge Remonde who, inadvertently or otherwise, best summed up the attitude of the present dispensation toward the Ampatuan massacre. On November 27, Remonde declared that, “It is said that the incident has few [precedents] in brutality, and for this we are condemned by the whole world. But let me assure the nation and the rest of the world that the killing of at least 57 people, including lawyers and media men, is a mere aberration” (emphasis added).

This is a poisonous suggestion that must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. By inserting the slaughter of 64 people into a space of “mere aberrations”, Remonde is attempting to disengage the government from its responsibilities, and worse, to accelerate the process of forgetting, thus displaying a species of impunity no less dangerous than that of the Ampatuans. As tantalizing as it is to believe that the Ampatuan massacre is an event so terrible that it could not have been prevented, and, anyway, will never happen again—who would not want to believe this, after all?—the fundamental impulse behind it, as a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial points out, should be shocking precisely because it is hardly aberrant:

When unmarked, black-tinted SUVs wang-wang their insolent way through a city’s roads, when government officials who have no other source of income except access to public funds ostentatiously purchase the most expensive luxury items, when public servants swagger into a room with dozens of bodyguards, we recognize the seeds of future massacres.

“Should be shocking”, that is, unless one is a callous, charter-change monomaniac like Carmen Pedrosa, who readily exonerates the Arroyo regime so as to be able to annex the tragedy for her cause.

Speaking of disturbing familiarity, it is urgently necessary, I think, that a particular aspect of the massacre be examined more closely. It may be that the militiamen who committed the murders were marching to the tune of a warlord who could be described as “psychopathic”, “sadistic”, or “monstrous”, but what are the odds that nearly all of them were psychopathic, sadistic monsters? (Psychopathy, in the clinical, rather than the popular, sense, is estimated to manifest itself in only 1% of the population, though researchers have suggested that psychopaths are overrepresented in occupations such as politics, business, and entertainment.) The bigger picture is more abysmal.

According to “Boy”, the sole gunman on the scene who claimed he could not bring himself to participate in the killing, “Datu Andal himself said […] to us: anyone from the Mangudadatu clan—women or children—should be killed… We [didn’t] ask why, we just followed orders. “How many of us have found ourselves in exactly the same situation—one in which we, in spite of our moral convictions, failed to question authority and therefore suffered the perils of obedience?

In the early 1960s, perhaps inspired in part by the trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann—also the subject of a book by philosopher Hannah Arendt, in which she introduced the concept of the “banality of evil”—Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments to test how far people were willing to obey commands from an authority figure. The volunteers, who had been recruited via newspaper ads, were made to play the role of “teacher”, and conducted simple memory exercises that a “learner” would provide answers to. Every time the learner made a mistake, the teacher was to administer progressively higher electric shocks to a “learner”, who was strapped to a miniature electric chair. There were 30 shock levels in all, from 15 volts to 450 volts. The electrocution was not real, but the learner, an actor, would express discomfort and pain, even scream, to convince the teacher that actual shocks were being delivered by the machine. Every time the teacher hesitated, the experimenter would prompt the teacher to press the switch.

In a poll that Milgram conducted among psychiatrists, college students, and middle-class adults, 100% of the respondents predicted that the teachers would defy the experimenter, and that few teachers would go beyond the mild shock levels. The results of Milgram’s first set of experiments proved otherwise: out of 40 teachers, 26 administered the maximum shock of 450 volts. He would go on to conduct 17 other variations on the experiment and compile the results in Obedience to Authority, first published in 1974. Below are selected paragraphs from the opening chapter:

Many subjects will obey the experimenter no matter how vehement the pleading of the person being shocked, no matter how painful the shocks seem to be, and no matter how much the victim pleads to be let out. This was seen time and again in our studies and has been observed in several universities where the experiment was repeated. It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority that constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

A commonly offered explanation is that those who shocked the victim at the most severe level were monsters, the sadistic fringe of society. But if one considers that almost two-thirds of the participants fall into the category of “obedient” subjects, and that they represented ordinary people drawn from working, managerial, and professional classes, the argument becomes very shaky.  […] The ordinary person who shocked the victim did so out of a sense of obligation—a conception of his duties as a subject—and not from any peculiarly aggressive tendencies.

This is, perhaps, the most fundamental lesson of our study: ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.

The difficult lesson that emerged from Milgram’s experiments is one of the lessons that we need to revisit and keep uppermost in our minds as we struggle to deal with the grisly reality and the grislier implications of the Ampatuan Massacre. Those among us who sow discord and commit acts of unimaginable cruelty may just be doing their jobs. The perpetration of evil need not be, and is in fact far from, a mere aberration.

Uncoordinated disaster: The first 48 hours of Ondoy (Updated)

To say that the government, as specifically embodied in the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), missed the boat as far as the Typhoon Ondoy (also known as Ketsana) disaster is concerned would be an understatement—if popular consensus is any indication, it missed many, many important boats. The tide of recriminations, then, has only begun to build, as it should. Philippine Daily Inquirer points out in its October 4 editorial that:

If in recent weeks the nation has been united in remembrance, it is now united in grief and – we do not think it’s an exaggeration to say – anger. All of officialdom, on whichever side of the aisle, in whatever office, is in the dock. As the public demands accountability, we won’t be surprised if officials react by finger-pointing, dodging the issues, or fudging the facts. The public needs to know who did their duty, did it well, or did it badly; and what can be done, institutionally and operationally, to improve disaster response and rehabilitation efforts.

This entry represents my own attempt to think through the manner in which Ondoy was handled, particularly within the first 48 hours, which I believe was the critical period for action.

My primary sources of information have been the situation reports of the NDCC, which I have cross-referenced with other material when I thought it necessary. I focus on Situation Report Nos. 1 to 9.

Although I obviously assume that these situation reports are more or less accurate, it should be said at the outset that they fail to inspire confidence. At absolute best, they were incompetently executed. Updates in one report are still recorded as updates in succeeding reports, which means that the newer a report is, the greater the amount of padding. One possible implication of such a practice is that there was little progress worth recording.

I do not know if revisions have since been made to the documents, but I have uploaded copies of the reports I used for writing this entry to my Scribd account.


In constructing this timeline, I have only taken the highlights from the situation reports, excluding redundant information.

As much as possible, I have quoted the reports verbatim et literatim. Occasional editorial changes are enclosed between brackets.

September 25 (Fri)


The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) issues an advisory saying that Ondoy has intensified into a tropical storm.

Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, and Polillo Island in Quezon are placed under Storm Signal No. 2, while Albay, Burias Island, Quezon, Marinduque, Rizal, Bulacan, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Isabela are placed under Storm Signal No. 1.

September 26 (Sat)


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 1, the following have been accomplished:

NDCC Advisory was disseminated to regions concerned through SMS and facsimile for further dissemination to their respective local disaster coordinating councils from the provincial down to the municipal levels.

OCD Regional Centers concerned have been continuously disseminating weather advisories/bulletins to the Local Disaster Coordinating Councils and monitoring of possible effects in their respective areas of responsibilities.


GMANews.TV reports that Ondoy has made landfall somewhere on the boundary of Aurora and Quezon.


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 2, the following have been accomplished in the past four (4) hours:

NDCC-OPCEN has been continuously coordinating with AFP Command Center and emergency responders of respective areas for the conduct of immediate search and rescue operations in various flooded/critical areas in Metro Manila: Manila City, Marikina City, Malabon City, Muntinlupa City, Quezon City, Makati City, Pasay City, Pasig City, Valenzuela City and San Juan City; Central Luzon (Bulacan); and Region IV-A (Rizal Province particularly San Mateo, Cainta, Tanay, Angono, Taytay, Baras, Montalban and Antipolo City).

Requested Olongapo Rescue and SBMA Emergency Responders to assist AFP in the conduct of search and rescue operations in Metro Manila.

Major AFP units such as 48IB, 7th ID deployed and respective DRRUs to render assistance.

GHQ and HSC DRRUs lead by LtC Docil, PA (GSC) assisted stranded commuters in the vicinity of EDSA-Santolan area.

As of this report, 1,318 people, mostly from San Mateo, Rizal, have been evacuated from their homes.


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 3 the following have been accomplished in the past four (4) hours:

The Secretary of National Defense and Chairman, NDCC in a Press Briefing this afternoon, declared a State of National Calamity in the following areas in view of the extensive effects of Tropical Storm “Ondoy”:

  • The whole of National Capital Region (NCR)
  • Region I: Mt. Province, Ifugao and Ilocos Sur
  • Region II: Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya
  • Region III: Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac and Bataan
  • Region IV-A: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental) and Marinduque
  • Region V: Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur

MMDA and NCRCOM emergency responders, Civil Defense Action Group, ARESCOM [have been deployed].

Activated all DOH CHD’s operations center 24 hours/7days with continuous coordination with the LGUs concerned and prepositioned drugs and medicines in all areas affected.

Assets deployed to the flooded areas in Metro Manila by AFPDRTF (HSC, SEG and MP, GHQ, PN, PMC, PAF, 525Ebde, PA and NCRRCDG); PNP; PCG; VCRC, 5IDRC, ICMOTF, 75th CG- NCRC; AFPRESCOM; PMC.

No data on persons affected/evacuated are available. A total of 5 persons are reported dead.

Later in the evening, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issues a brief message on Ondoy, exhorting everyone to “pull together and look out for each other in the finest Filipino tradition of caring and sharing”:

September 27 (Sun)


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 4, the following have been accomplished in the last five (5) hours:

Secretary of Department of National Defense and Chairman, NDCC issued an NDCC Circular to Chairmen of RDCCs I, II, III and CAR directing them to undertake necessary response measures to avoid loss of lives and destruction of properties.

NDCC established an Advance Command Post (ACP) at Katipunan Avenue cor. Araneta Boulevard, Marikina City. The over-all commander is Hon. Mayor Maridel Fernando while the Incident Commanders are Mr. Robert Nacenciano and Mr. Ramon Santiago of MMDA.

MMDA also deploys assets to the flooded areas in Metro Manila.

PCG, KN, SOG and CGETC teams rescued 200 residents in Brgy Hagonoy, Taguig near Laguna Lake. At St. Peter, MH Amoranto, Quezon City, more than 20 persons have been rescued from rooftops. Afterward, some teams proceeded to Araneta and Del Monte, Quezon City.

One (1) SOG team on board MRT with rubber boat and another SOG team which just finished operations in Parañaque now en route to Marikina.

Six (6) more teams with rubber boats and trucks formed with PBRC to proceed Marikina shortly after logistical fill-up and four (4) more rubber boats are expected to arrive from Subic early tomorrow morning for dispatch to other flooded areas to be assigned by NDCC.

MMDA rescued 60 stranded commuters and 40 stalled vehicles at EDSA Santolan Northbound; 80 persons in Marikina were brought to higher grounds.

SBMA – 15 personnel of SBMA Fire Department and SWAT (IED) proceeded to PNRC National headquarters to augment rescue operations in the flooded areas in Metro Manila with one (10 rescue van, 1 rubber boat and 2 dump trucks.

NOLCOM 503rd conducted rescue and retrieval operations in the landslide areas.

Donations Received

Dr. Rafael Rodriguez of Medical Plaza donated 1 unit rubber boat to NDCC which was turned over to the AFP.

Aileen Lawigan, friends of Executive Secretary Ermita donated ready-to-eat food packs for stranded passengers.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected in Metro Manila, Bulacan, and Pampanga is 21,896 families (106,180 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 624 families (3,114 persons) in 12 evacuation centers. There are also 15 casualties, 21 missing, and 3 injured.


GMANews.TV reports that Ondoy has begun to move out of Philippine territory.

Zambales remains under Storm Signal No. 2, while Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Cavite, and Lubang Island are under Storm Signal No. 1.


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 5, the following have been accomplished in the last four (4) hours:

DSWD’s on-going interventions are activation of the Quick Response and Social Welfare and Disaster (QR/SWAD) teams to provide technical assistance to the disaster-affected local government units (LGUs) on disaster operations; provided PhP635,056.00 worth of relief goods consisting of food and non-food commodities to the affected families; and prepositioned stand-by funds, family food packs and stockpile of relief commodities composed of food and non-food amounting to PhP19,981,158.35 by the field offices concerned along the typhoon path, ready for additional augmentation/assistance whenever necessary

PNRC rescued 282 persons and provided relief assistance to the victims.

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines is conducting power restoration in various damaged sub-stations (S/S) in Region III (Botolan, Zambales (77.18%), Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija (79.51%), Concepcion, Tarlac (12:66%), Cruz na Daan. Bulacan (0%) and Limay, Bataan (40;0%); Region I (Labrador, Pangasinan (48.48%) power restored.

DSWD will start massive relief operations to augment local capacities in Metro Manila.

The NDCC facilitated the release of 1,300 sacks of rice to the PDCCs of Cavite (200), Laguna (200), Batangas (200), Rizal (200); Quezon (100); CDCC Calamba, Laguna (200); and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (200).

Donations Received

CEISSAFP coordinated with SMART Telecom re: Installation of GSM900 repeater at NDCC Operation Center to enhance smart mobile phone signal inside the OPCEN building.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, and Camarines Sur is 54,891 families (279,763 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 8,388 families (41,205 persons) in 92 evacuation centers. There are also 51 casualties, 21 missing, and 3 injured.


PAGASA cancels all storm signals in the country, saying that Ondoy has moved out of the Philippine area of responsibility. More rains are expected, however.


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 6, the following have been accomplished in the last seven (7) hours:

The NDCC Technical Working Group met on September 26, 2009 to map out available resources for rescue operations and to prioritize the heavily flooded areas for rescue operations.

Another meeting was held at the NDMC Conference Room to determine the immediate needs and requirements in the flood-stricken areas in terms of Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH), medicines and medical supplies, food and non-food items.

In Region IV-A, no power in the following Districts of Quezon: 4th District except Gumaca and 3rd District except Unisan, Agdangan, and Padre Burgos both due to Quezelco 1 problem, 1st District except Lucban and Infanta breaker 51FY4 Famy Infanta 69kV line under patrol and Tayabas, Sampaloc and Pagbilao Meco portion lateral Line cut-out still open, subject for patrol by MECO and 2nd District has power except in the municipalitis of Tiaong and San Antonio but MECO portion lateral Line cut-out still open, subject for patrol by MECO.

Acceptance of Relief Goods (Drop Points):

  • DSWD Dromic: Batasan Complex, Quezon City / Tel. Nos. 951-7119 / 0918-421-9780
  • DSWD National Capital Region (NCR): 389 San Rafael corner Legarda, Quiapo, Manila / Tel. Nos. 734-8635 / 0915-291-3722
  • DSWD National Relief Operations Center (NROC): Chapel Road, NAIA, Pasay City (back of ATO) / Tel. Nos. 852-8081 / 734-8622
  • PETRON Corp (All Stations)

The NDCC facilitated the release of 1,800 sacks of rice to the PDCCs of Cavite (200), Laguna (200), Batangas (200), Rizal (200); Quezon (100); PDCC Bulacan (500); CDCC Calamba, Laguna (200); and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (200).

Donations Received

Globe Telecom temporarily lent four (4) hotlines at NDCC OPCEN to augment the communication capability of NDCC in providing emergency calls in the calamity areas during the entire TS “Ondoy” Operations, with the following hotline numbers: 0917334193, 0917334256, 0917334263, and 09155316719.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, and Camarines Sur is 59,241 families (294,555 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 9,601 families (47,261 persons) in 101 evacuation centers. There are also 52 casualties, 23 missing, and 4 injured.


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 7, the following have been accomplished in the past six (6) hours:

Cluster meeting among cluster leads with IASC representative was conducted to address the gaps and needs in the affected areas.

DSWD established donations drop-off points as follows:

  • National Resource Operations Center, Chapel Road, Pasay City | Francia Favian: 852 8081/0918 930 2356
  • Disaster Resource Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC), DSWD Central Office, Quezon City | Rey Martija or Imee Rose Castillo: 951 7119/951 2435 | Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera: 0918 9345625
  • DSWD-NCR Office, San Rafael corner Legarda Streets, Quiapo, Manila | Director Thelsa P. Biolna or Director Delia Bauan: 734 8622/734 8642

NDCC established additional Advance Command Posts (ACP) in various strategic areas in Metro Manila:

  • Alpha base 8th Floor, Pasig City Hall with telephone number 643-0000. the over-all commander is Mayor Roberto Eusebio.
  • Club House, City Hall of Cainta City headed by Mayor Ramon Ilagan, with telephone numbers 0927-2204744 and 665-0846
  • Department of Public Order Safety Hall Quezon City. The over-all commander is Mayor Sonny Belmonte while the incident Commanders is Ms. Teresa Amarillo with telephone number 0921-6555262

Issued NDCC MEMO Order [No. 18] on the suspension of classes at all levels in Metro Manila [and Rizal] on 28 September 2008.

BFP’s emergency responders were dispatched to the flooded areas along the thoroughfares of Metro Manila areas covering Districts I, II, III, IV and V.

DPWH conducted damage assessment in all affected areas. Based on assessment, all are passable except Cabagan Sta Maria Concrete Overflow due to swollen river. Deployed 1 unit dump truck to Pasay City.

DepEd reported that 15 schools were damaged: 7 elementary schools 1 high school and 8 secondary schools were damaged in Regions CAR, NCR Regions III and IV-A amounting to PhP6,520,000.00. There are 36 school buildings used as evacuation centers occupying 1,650 families and 1,366 individuals.

The NDCC facilitated the release of 4,400 sacks of rice to the following:

  • Region IV-A – PDCC Cavite (200), PDCC Laguna (200), PDCC Batangas (200), 1st District Batangas (1,000); PDCC Rizal (200); PDCC Quezon (100); CDCC Calamba, Laguna (200); and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (200)
  • Region III – 1st District Bulacan (100) and PDCC Bulacan (1,000)
  • NCR – CDCC Taguig (1,000)

PNP dispatched various SAR equipment such as: NCR SRU Van, Squad EMS-NHQ, SOD-NHQ, engines, water tanker, mini-pumper rubber boats, jaguar, fire trucks and others for SAR operations in Regions I, III, IV-A and Metro Manila.

The 51st Engineering Brigade, PA organized and dispatched a Disaster, Rescue and Relief Operations team composed of 6 Officers and 60 enlisted personnel led by Commander Simoy with 2 loaders, 2 dump trucks, 3 Canter Elf and 1 backhoe loader.

The US Contingent: 1 Officer and 17 EPs, with night capability equipment, 2 rubber boats and 1 chopper (Bell 214) arrived this afternoon at NDCC OpCen to support SAR operations. Six persons have been rescued from Ever Gotesco, Cainta and two hundred packs of assorted goods (five kilos each) were distributed to the affected families.

Donations Received

The Manila and Subic Yacht Clubs lent rubber boats to the NDCC for use of response teams in the conduct rescue operations.

San Miguel Corporation and Petron Corporation donated 20 pieces 2.7 kg cylinder with gasoline lamps for use in the evacuation areas.

PHAP Cares Foundation thru Executive Director Glecy C. Cuenco donated 5 boxes of assorted medicines.

Ms. Cynthia Rodriguez and Family of Corinthian Gardens, QC provided relief goods such as: 5 boxes noodles, 8 packages skyflakes crackers; 4 bottles Coco Jam, 5 cans pork & beans, assorted clothing, blankets and 16 cups noodles.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected is 69,513 families (337,216 persons), while the the partial total of evacuees is 11,967 families (59,521 persons) in 118 evacuation centers. There are also 73 casualties, 23 missing, and 4 injured.

September 28 (Mon)


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 8, the following have been accomplished in the past twelve (12) hours:

DOH Donations Drop Off Point: MMD-DOH Central Office | Engr. Dave Masiado: 0917-816-3400.

DOH has provided initial 50 pieces of cadaver bags and six (6) boxes of assorted drugs and medicines.

All NGCP transmission lines are on normal operation; waiting for normalization of load systems from distribution utilities (Meralco for Metro Manila area) and electric cooperatives.

Philippine Coast Guard has rescued 2,784 persons in San Juan, Manila, Quezon City, Marikina City, Pasig City, Taguig City, Parañaque City, Rizal and Laguna.

The NDCC facilitated the release of 3,900 sacks of rice to the following:

  • Region IV-A – Cavite, Laguna Batangas, 1st District Batangas; PDCC Rizal; PDCC Quezon; CDCC Calamba, Laguna; and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (a total of 2,300 sacks of rice)
  • Region III – 1st District Bulacan, and PDCC Bulacan for a total of 600 sacks of rice
  • NCR – CDCC Taguig (1,000)
  • A total of PhP2,108,041.60 assistance was provided by DSWD (PhP1.4 M) and LGUs (PhP0.670 M)

Summary of assets deployed: 12 ambulance, 33 M35 trucks, 59 rubber boats and 112 other vehicles, 6 officers, 5 companies, 137 EPS and 13 platoons, 20 US Servicemen, 2 US watercraft, 1 US Chopper, 8 Island Cruise.

DSWD had distributed the following items at the Rosario Sports Complex: 5 big boxes of doughnuts, 146 small boxes of doughnuts, 52 bags of hotmeal, 4 boxes of bottled water, 12 bags of used clothes, and 2 bags of blankets.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected is 86,313 families (435,646 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 23,126 families (115,898 persons) in 204 evacuation centers. There are also 86 casualties, 32 missing, and 5 injured.


U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, along with representatives from the U.S. contingent that arrived yesterday, appears on Unang Hirit. Kenney says she sees no need to duplicate relief efforts already underway. Instead, she plans to divert resources already in the Philippines to hard-hit areas. She is also coordinating with the U.S. Marines to move up a military exercise slated for next month in Clark. Ideally, the troops and the equipment should arrive by the night of September 30 (Wednesday).

When asked how many Marines would be arriving, Kenney dodges the question, saying that the medical team will consist of 30 persons, who will then team up with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Philippine Daily Inquirer will later report that five heavy trucks, five Humvees, one bulldozer, two forklifts and 30 US medical personnel had already arrived in the country to help in flood relief. Kenney will still be unwilling or unable to state the number of personnel arriving.


ABS-CBN reports Secretary of National Defense and NDCC Chairman Gilbert Teodoro as having asked for international humanitarian assistance: “We’re appealing for more donations of food, water and warm clothes.”


Anthony Golez, officer-in-charge for the Office of Civil Defense, is quoted as saying that “the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed…Our assets and people are spread too thinly.”


According to NDCC Situation Report No. 9, the following have been accomplished in the past six (6) hours:

NDCC on-site coordination has been established at the Incident Command Post in Ever Gotesco, Ortigas to support relief efforts.

DOH activated all DOH CHD’s operations center 24 hours/7days with continuous coordination with theLGUs concerned and prepositioned drugs and medicines in all affected areas; has provided 150 pieces of cadaver bags and six (6) boxes of assorted drugs and medicines. DOH-HEMS augmented 350 boxes of bottled water (8,400 bottles) for NCR and same quantity for CHD IV-A.

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines conducted power restoration in various damaged sub-stations (S/S). All lines are on normal operation except San Jose, Bulacan and CND-San Miguel (Bacnotan, San Miguel, La Union).

The NDCC facilitated the release of 3,900 sacks of rice to the following:

  • Region IV-A – Cavite, Laguna Batangas, 1st District Batangas; PDCC Rizal; PDCC Quezon; CDCC Calamba, Laguna; and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (a total of 2,300 sacks of rice)
  • Region III – 1st District Bulacan, and PDCC Bulacan for a total of 600 sacks of rice
  • A total of PhP4,005,832.80 assistance was provided by DSWD (PhP2,068,685.50) and LGUs (PhP1,937,148.30)

PGMA Sagip-Tulong Activities by PAGCOR:

  • 1000H 27 September 2009, deployed three (3) teams and distributed bread and water to various evacuation centers in Malanday, Marikina and at Brgy. Tatalon, Quezon City
  • Set-up of a medical mission with eleven (11) doctors and distributed medicines, bread and water at the Santolan Elementary School, Pasig City and Brgy. Tañong, Marikina City
  • Deployment of PGMA/PAGCOR buses to bring evacuees and stranded to people to various evacuation centers
  • Continuously coordinating with PNP and AFP for the transport and distribution of relief goods
  • Distributed Five Hundred (500) packs of rice and additional ten (10) cavans of rice for the three (3) evacuation centers in Marikina and four (4) in Pasig City
  • Continuous distribution of relief goods to evacuation centers

Two (2) DRRUs with two (2) units rubber boats from Philippine Navy – Poro Point, San Fernando, La Union proceeded to Bulacan to augment the rescue operations.

Donations Received

28 September 2009, donation of three (3) motorized rubber boats to NDCC, [courtesy of PGMA Sagip-Tulong].

As of this report, the partial total of people affected is 89,953 families (451,683 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 23,147 families (115,990 persons) in 205 evacuation centers. There are also 100 casualties, 32 missing, and 5 injured.

NDCC Assets Deployed

Each NDCC situation report came with a table showing the assets that had been deployed for rescue operations. As previously stated, however, the reports tended to be padded, and thus confusing to read. In seeking to understand what the movements of the NDCC were, therefore, I decided to put together the following table, which I hope clarifies matters:

The units deployed came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines  (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Fire Department and SWAT. There was also a small contingent of U.S. troops.

Where details were not given, I placed a question mark in between parentheses. Otherwise, the data is practically unchanged.

A caveat regarding the PCG: As of SR No. 3, the PCG had deployed four units, while as of SR No. 4,  the PCG had deployed six units. Of the six units in SR No. 4, however, four are deployed to exactly the same areas as the four units in SR No. 3. Also, it is only the latter six units that are recorded in succeeding reports. Therefore, it is possible that the PCG only deployed an additional two units, rather than six. I have decided to give the PCG the benefit of the doubt.

Here is a map approximating the deployment of units. Please note that the reports lack location details, so the map merely provides a very rough idea of the deployment.

Preliminary Findings

While I have yet to come to any conclusions, these findings may serve as starting points for further dialogue or investigation.

Reportorial errors

Personal finickiness could well be the informing spirit here, but the following errors are significant if the reports served to drive actions and decisions:

  • The Globe hotlines in SR No. 6 are mistyped, and thus could have exacerbated communication problems. The first three numbers each lack one digit, while the last number should be 09175366719, at least starting from SR No. 8. A total 18 hours may have elapsed before corrections were made to the report.
  • A discrepancy of 500 sacks of rice becomes apparent upon comparing SR Nos. 7 and 8. Per SR No. 7, a total of 1,100 sacks were released to Region III, with 100 going to the first district of Bulacan, and the rest going to the Bulacan Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council. Per SR No. 8, however, only a total of 600 sacks were released to Region III.

Time mismanagement

  • There appears to be a significant gap—up to 17 hours—between the establishment of the first Advance Command Post (ACP) in Marikina (see SR No. 4) and the establishment of the other ACPs in Pasig, Cainta, and Quezon City (see SR No. 7).
  • Per SR No. 6, a meeting was held to “determine the immediate needs and requirements in the flood-stricken areas in terms of Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH), medicines and medical supplies, food and non-food items”. If this objective is taken at face value, should it be inferred that the NDCC is not aware of what flood victims need? Or, if the allocation of supplies was the purpose of the meeting, what does it say about the actual state of coordination when data regarding evacuees was available as early as 0100H?

Questionable moves

  • About an hour and half before Ondoy made landfall, all the NDCC had done was monitor developments and send advisories.
  • There is little evidence that the NDCC and its member agencies were communicating or coordinating with each other efficiently.
  • While the DSWD had begun accepting donations as of SR No. 6, it is only in SR No. 7 that specific persons are identified and made accountable for any donations that come in. How donations that arrived in the interim were handled cannot be determined from the reports.
  • The deployment of assets over the critical 48-hour period seems merely sporadic rather than strategic. There are entire blocks of time in which there was very little deployment or, per SR No. 9, no deployment at all.
  • The initial number of rubber boats sent out was a paltry 12. It seems the majority of the rubber boats used for rescue only became available after the Manila and Subic Yacht Clubs lent an unspecified quantity to the NDCC on the afternoon or evening of September 27 (see SR No. 7). On a related note, it has been claimed that certain government agencies were unmindful of proper maintenance and storage for such boats.
  • The Philippine National Police (PNP) was recorded as having mobilized significantly only on September 28. Why was it not able to do so earlier, despite its apparently significant resources? Consider, for instance, that the Special Action Force (SAF) of the PNP was scheduled to move to a 368-hectare camp in Baras, Rizal from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig to the tune of PhP100 million. And whether the SAF has moved or not, that it was recorded as having arrived on the scene only on the morning of September 28, per SR No.8, is curious.