Coming with a pack of goods

We imagine that a single pack containing basic relief items is very personal to the family who receives it.

Sure, that pack is a product of an assembly line of dozens, if not hundreds of volunteers at some warehouse or covered court, systematically put together to reach the survivors of the typhoon that battered the Visayas and some parts of Luzon on November 8.

Six kilos of rice, three cans of corned beef, three cans of sardines, eight sachets of instant coffee, eight packs of noodles -- this standard relief pack of the Department of Social Welfare and Development is meant to last a family of five two or three days.

Other organizations providing help may have other combinations, but the intent is the same: to show solidarity with those who lost loved ones, property or livelihood, and to remind them that a faceless stranger was thinking of them in their time of need. It’s a tangible representation of somebody reaching out and feeling their pain.

Small consolation when one’s life is forever altered -- but a consolation just the same.

Some packs, however, do not come faceless or nameless. In the past few days, social media has been abuzz with accounts and photos of relief packs -- or vehicles bearing them -- containing the names, faces or political colors or emblems of certain politicians and political parties.

Vice President Jejomar Binay insisted that it was his supporters that put his name and face on the relief packs, but we have a difficult time believing he could not tell his supporters to stop politicizing the tragedy.

There are also photos of packs of noodles bearing the Liberal Party’s signature yellow ribbon circulating the Internet; a photo has even been submitted to the international news network CNN’s iReport segment. Some commenters have claimed it is a hoax.

There are reports of national and local government officials coming into conflict, each wanting to be perceived as the more efficient, more concerned, more capable one among the hapless people.

Requests for assistance from communities ill-equipped to deal with the typhoon’s aftermath on their own are denied, if only to highlight their weakness and emphasize that the more deliberate, more capable national officials are better able to help the grief-stricken people.

There are no words for this kind of act, especially when taken in the context of typhoon Yolanda being the worst storm to make landfall in recorded history, and thousands of people dying from its fury.

We have seen the images and heard some of the stories. These are the people who have nothing to return to and nothing to lay claim to except for what they have at the moment. Why take advantage of their temporary inability to distinguish compassion from opportunism?

Last year, many months before the 2013 midterm election, an online campaign was launched, shaming officials who promote themselves for no apparent reason except to gain popularity with the end in view of winning the next polls. The anti-epal movement worked to some extent, with the shamed officials taking down their handiwork for fear of negative backlash.

It’s so much worse this time, because a tragedy has just occurred. Let us remember our local and national leaders who help not for the sake of helping, and let us shun them like bad omens or harbingers of worse tragedies to come.

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