Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is Former Benguet Police Chief David Lacdan To Blame For The Lives Taken By Lando In Benguet?

Just over a day ago, Senior Superintendent David Lacdan was the Director of the Benguet Provincial Police Office. That changed on Tuesday when Mel Senen Sarmiento, Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, decided to relieve Lacdan of his post. The reason? Sarmiento claims that Lacdan failed to properly implement the preemptive evacuation of people who live in hazardous areas.

Before anything else, let's accept the fact that the province of Benguet has incurred the most casualties from typhoon Lando. The latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) shows that Benguet recorded 15 casualties, 7 of whom were from the capital town of La Trinidad. The rest were from Bakun, Bokod, Buguias, Tuba, and Kapangan. This could increase with reports of some people still missing. I'm also seeing conflicting reports from other media sources that show an even bigger number. There are some names in these reports that are not included in the NDRRMC report.

Anyway, I don't understand why Secretary Sarmiento had to relieve Lacdan, basically blaming him for the big number of casualties. For one, as far as I know, the role of the police force when it comes to notifying the public and having them evacuated is secondary. If anyone has to be sacked (I'm not saying someone has to) because of these big numbers, the Benguet Police Director should be way below the to-fire list.

I also don't understand why Sarmiento had to sack Lacdan immediately. It seems to me like a classic knee-jerk reaction. He saw the numbers then immediately made the decision to relieve the Police Chief without asking the circumstances surrounding the events that caused the deaths. Majority of those who died were because of landslides. If you have lived in the Cordillera region for some time, you know that a landslide can happen anywhere at any moment whether it's a declared hazardous area or not.

Maybe Sarmiento is a lowlander. Someone who isn't fully aware of what the terrain in the Cordillera region looks like and how it reacts to continuous rains. That it's not like in the lowlands wherein you can predict where the flood will hit thus evacuations are much more accurate.

Or this could be a political thing. I want to believe that it's not but given the dirty and stupid things people do in this country because of politics, I'd say it's possible.

When everything's said and done, it's never a decent move to blame someone for the deaths of others especially if you are not fully aware of what has actually transpired.
Clearing operation. Image credit: Rafael Valencia of 911 On Call Baguio
In all honesty, if I'm to be asked, the province's preparation and response to the incoming typhoon was rather lacking. This is my personal opinion based on personal observations. However, I see the lax preparation in several fronts, not just in the police force. I'm not saying these fronts didn't do their jobs. I'm saying that they could've done more especially in the information dissemination part. I guess my main point is that we seem to act with urgency only when the typhoon is already here ripping our roofs apart.

May we all learn from Lando's wrath and the swath of wreckage it left behind.