This gigantic slip-up is, in fact, a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with this Administration, other than its corruption: its arrogance and amateurishness.
Here’s what happened:
The two arrived at 5 p.m. on November 7 and after, of course, a press conference at the airport, they called and presided over a meeting of more than two dozen local officials, including the city mayor, Alfred Romualdez, for preparations for the typhoon.
Guess what kind of official Gazmin and Roxas failed to bring with them from Manila, or require the local counterparts to attend the meeting?
In a video of that meeting, Roxas obviously didn’t realize how the weather forecast was critical to their work. He asked in the meeting if there was a Pagasa representative among the more than two-dozen local officials present, and when the question was met with total silence, he just moved on to another topic without giving an order to get the weather forecaster.
Until 10 a.m.
(It is a mystery — or another demonstration of confusion at the top rungs of government — why Aquino claimed in his 6 pm televised speech on November 7, during which he boasted that his government has made all the necessary preparations to respond to the typhoon, that it would hit central Visayas that midnight. [“Inaasahan pong tatama si Yolanda sa mga probinsya ng Samar at Leyte simula mamayang hatinggabi,” he said.]
On the other hand, Roxas’ “10 a.m.” November 8 deadline was based on Pagasa’s Severe Weather Bulletin issued 11 am November 7, that Yolanda’s landfall would be at noon November 8.
Two sources claimed that Roxas and Gazmin, after a round of brandy, retired before midnight and slept soundly. By daybreak the typhoon would strike, and after the storm surge hit their hotel, their terrified aides nearly broke down their door to wake them up. Both nearly drowned, as did one local-based security man who was assigned to them.
Gazmin lost his insulin kit for diabetes, and had to be rushed back to Manila through Cebu on the first helicopter available for his life-saving shots. They lost even their satellite phones, which made them incommunicado until after noon of November 8. After Yolanda left by 10 a.m., Roxas and Gazmin were walking like dazed zombies on Tacloban’s streets just like most victims, toward the airport.
No wonder, when he recovered from his shock, Roxas was in the foulest of moods, and demanded that the mayor turn over the city to him in a meeting two days later. Why?
“‘Because you are a Romualdez, and the President is an Aquino,” he barked at the city mayor in a meeting several days later. That arrangement would have been his remaining chance of proving his leadership in a crisis.