In the Philippines, public classrooms are often turned into evacuation sites when a storm threatens to batter towns — usually at the expense of students whose classes are interrupted to accommodate the evacuees. In Muntinlupa City, a public school turned evacuation site endured so much vandalism that the mayor decided to speak out on the issue.
Mayor Ruffy Biazon yesterday posted photos of the school that showed broken chalkboards, tons of garbage littering the stairs and classroom chairs left in disarray, all apparently the result of residents who the city had evacuated there during the height of Tropical Storm Paeng.
“Sadness or anger… I don’t know which one dominates the other,” the mayor wrote in Filipino.
“They say a mayor is a father of a city. As a father at home, when my child does something wrong, I scold them because it is my responsibility to discipline my children. If someone wrongs them, I get sad and rush to their defense. That’s what a father does,” he continued.
“In being mayor, my being a father also comes through. When constituents err, I get angry. When they are oppressed or disadvantaged, I get sad.”
Biazon added that he had visited the evacuees at the school just after they had moved there and checked on their conditions.
The mayor added that, as the city’s assigned evacuation centers were overflowing, he talked to the Department of Education (DepEd) Division Office to permit the use of classrooms as additional evacuation areas.
“To be honest, we try to avoid using schools as evacuation centers as this usually hinders children’s studies as sometimes the classrooms are not vacated in time during calamities,” the mayor explained, adding that the DepEd Division Office was kind enough to allow residents to take refuge at the school.
“But what happens in return? The destruction of facilities and the mindless littering of trash around the school. Why did this happen? Why does it seem like the people given care and shelter during this time do not care about public property? Is this the character of people now?” Biazon asked.
The mayor said he was unsure if a child or an adult committed the vandalism here.
“We say that education is important for a bright future, that this will help people get out of poverty, that this is the key to progress… but why do we do this to schools? If a child did this, why has this child adopted this kind of attitude? Is it the fault of the government that they turned out this way? Or are the parents responsible for this? Why did they let the child do this, if a child was at fault?” he asked.
“If the person responsible is an adult, they are now at the right age to be accountable for this action. I cannot fully understand the workings of the mind of an adult who would do this to a school that gives hope for a better future for their children,” he added.
“I feel sad for this school’s students. While we in the government look for ways and strive to squeeze in the budget to improve classrooms and schools, these people just simply desecrate and destruct the places that have cradled them during times of calamity, and serve as the nest of dreams for their children. It’s dismaying,” the mayor said.
The mayor said that he was angry at whoever was responsible for the destruction of school facilities and vowed that someone would be held accountable.
On Oct. 31, the Muntinlupa City Council passed a resolution that declared a state of calamity in the city following Paeng’s devastation.