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Davao City, Philippines

Sifting through the rubble

November 06, 2019 - Wednesday 4:11 AM by Jimmy Laking

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Scanning the news generated by the series of earthquakes is like sifting through the twisted rubble left by a 7-magnitude earth shaker. One never knows what comes out until it is there in plain sight.

To date, one of the earthquake-related stories that stomps me had to with the October 16 General Santos City commercial center fire that attracted wide coverage.

The stories the fire incident generated indicated it originated from the first floor then it spread as it gained momentum.

The fire has been attributed to the 6.3 earthquake which is strong as far as categories go. Yet how exactly would an earthquake trigger the fire has not been explained to this day. In short, the story has been left hanging.

So it is with same kind of lens that I was examining this photo of children reportedly begging along the streets for food in the aftermath of a 6.5 magnitude earthquake that affected the municipality of Makilala in North Cotabato.

I would like to believe that the photo was authentic. The photojournalist was at the right time and in the right place and the result is a photo that speaks for itself.

But does it speak of a general situation arising in Makilala in the wake of the earthquake? What does Makilala municipal officials or the provincial officials and their responders have to say? Or is it an isolated incident triggered by a few displaced individuals desperate to seek assistance or to gain sympathy and attention?

Besides, in an era redolent of fake news, was the photo contrived?

To be sure, the province of North Cotabato continues to raise a red flag because of its high poverty incidence.

The Philippine Statistics Authority says it has the highest magnitude of poor population in SOCCSKSARGEN with 695,923 individuals or 41.4 percent during the 2016-2018 period.

How did the earthquake affect the livelihood of some individuals so as to induce their children to beg openly on the streets?

At the Kapehan sa Dabaw, Office of Civil Defense director Emmanuel Luis Ochotorena said that in the Davao Region, the earthquake affected families from Malita and Santa Maria in Davao Occidental in Magsaysay, Kiblawan, Bansalan, Digos City, and Matanao in Davao del Sur.

He said these families were staying in evacuation sites such as schools and gymnasiums.

Again, the issue as to what caused the residents to evacuate had not been explained. If it was a Signal No. 3 typhoon of the type that packs powerful winds and heavy rains, it is not hard to imagine what happened. Within a day of pounding, such typhoon would be capable of triggering landslides that would flatten houses, close roads, destroy other infrastructure, knock down trees and electric posts. The damage would be general that LGUs will be forced to cancel classes in all levels and to cancel work in government offices as well.

I think that with the earthquake occurring especially in areas where aftershocks were felt, those affected simply decided to move to the evacuation centers with the consent of their barangay officials.

This must be especially true for families living along slopes affected by landslides or falling boulders. It is also possible that the houses of those affected collapsed entirely like houses of cards so as to render them homeless and without roofs for shelter.

In the evacuation centers at least, they can avail themselves of shelter and assistance while waiting for conditions to settle down so as to allow them to pick up the pieces anew.