I remember the 1991 earthquake in Baguio City. The quake struck around 4PM. By 6PM locals who were unable to make it home for various reasons had converged at Melvin Jones in the CBD. I was among these stranded. Late that night, local officials and media people had set up a PA system on the stage and thereon provided leadership. Relatives or family members who were able to travel to the CBD starting that night went to this group to coordinate the whereabouts of their missing. The media announced the names over the PA system. Also, people were assured now and then that there was something being done and help was coming soon. In retrospect, this is one reason people didn’t go berserk in the aftermath of the quake; why despite the raging fear and worry of the affected, relative peace and order was in place.
The affected of Tacloban City and Eastern Samar need their local leaders, at least those who are now able to resume their duty. President Aquino cannot provide the leadership that locals need simply because he cannot even if he wanted to divide his body up; so media should stop pestering that he should. Ground zero is now the stage of local leaders. Moreover, the rapport between local public officials and local folks are already established and entrenched so that locals would naturally respond and seek their local leaders just as children seek for their natural mother. President Aquino’s role is oversight of and support to all these efforts on the ground, maybe jump-start the process by, metaphorically speaking, kicking the butt of the local official who refuses to man up.
It is a crime for able public officials to abandon their local offices and duty especially at this time (Act 3815 of The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, specifically Article 238 or Abandonment of Office or Position). Tacloban City and Eastern Samar may be waste lands now but the people are still there. There is no reason therefore for local public officials to leave. They must go back or make themselves visible, be with their constituents, for better or worse, and discharge their duties.