MANILA, Philippines — What about Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas saying hello from Tacloban got netizens irked?
Roxas received flak on social media after he was featured on the cover of “Esquire Philippines” magazine commemorating the first anniversary of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).
The official Facebook account of Esquire shared the photo of its cover featuring a smiling and gentle Roxas, whose right hand was raised in a greeting while sitting on a pile of cut wood behind a cargo truck.
The caption of the photo reads: “Hello from Tacloban… One year later.” Roxas’ smiling photo was taken about a year ago or on November 21, 2013, at the Tacloban City Port.
“There are reasons why stories are revisited: sometimes, it’s because there are new lessons to be learned. Sometimes, it’s because not enough people are listening. This month, a year after Yolanda, ESQUIRE Philippines returns to the ongoing tragedy that is the storm’s aftermath,” the status that accompanied the photo read.
Some netizens called the photo “insensitive,” in “bad taste,” and an “insult” to the typhoon victims. Still, others noted a hint of sarcasm, a sense of a story, and even a note of hope.
The photo was shared 514 times as of posting time since it was posted on Thursday. It also got 190 likes.
“Esquire this is really done in bad taste. Give respect to the people of Tacloban,” commented Joseph Ongkeko Delos Reyes.
“Bad move. How about putting the pictures of those who survived the disaster?” Dee Ferraris Necèsito pointed out.
One netizen suspected that the cover photo is an early election campaign ploy. Roxas is President Benigno Aquino III’s presumed bet to succeed him in 2016.
“What’s this Esquire? (An) election edition of your (magazine)?” Nico Anthony Brosas asked.
Another said the magazine wanted to ride on the controversy to get attention. “Very tasteless, like spitting on the countless people’s mass graves. All for what? Generate publicity for this magazine?” Frederick Ong said.
Still, cooler-headed netizens tried to make sense of the cover and said Roxas was on the cover photo because he was as much a part of the story as the victims of the monster typhoon.
“I am not defending anyone but what I have read are really horrifying ordeals our fellow Taclobanons are experiencing after a year. The cover, in my opinion, is merely a part of the story,” John Voltaire Vera said.
“As cliché as it may sound, this is a perfect example why you should not judge a book by its cover. Let us read the story first before we criticize… A cover is just part of the story, it is not the whole. I’ve personally read this issue and it has taken all sides to provide a brief explanation of what has been done and what still needs to be done for Tacloban,” Vera added.
“(One) would definitely get pissed off seeing the cover of this magazine. But then again, I urge everyone … to … take the time to fully analyze the photo and … read the full article that comes with it. This isn’t some early campaign propaganda whatsoever. The story covers the events that happened during Yolanda and how everyone who suffered the wrath of this storm is coping…” added Andrew Marquez.
It is not clear if the photo gives a hint of political satire – but it certainly brings back the grim picture of the clan politics that marred the early rescue efforts in severely hit Tacloban, a bulwark of the Romualdezes.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez figured in a political conflict with Roxas. In the aftermath of the deluge, Mayor Romualdez broke down in tears in a post-disaster assessment at the Senate and accused Roxas of asking him to cede control of the city to the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Romualdez also accused Roxas of bringing up the clan politics between the Romualdezes and President Aquino instead of immediately sending aid to the city.
“Secretary Roxas said we should legalize everything… ‘You have to remember: we have to be very careful because you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino,’” Romualdez quoted Roxas.
Roxas then clarified that he merely mentioned the Romualdez-Aquino tension to avoid politicizing the disaster.
There was even a video of the encounter allegedly uploaded on YouTube by former San Juan congressman Jose Mari Gonzales, the father of Romualdez’s wife, Cristina.
The video of a meeting with Mayor Romualdez was supposedly spliced to make Roxas say to Romualdez: “You have to understand. You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino. If it’s not legalized, then OK you are in charge and we’ll help you, then that’s it … (unintelligible) bahala na kayo sa buhay ’nyo.”
Roxas said the video was maliciously edited.
Romualdez is the nephew of Imelda Marcos, widow of the late stronghold Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino’s father, Ninoy Aquino, was assassinated on his return from exile in 1983 during the Marcos presidency.