Class and Ondoy: The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Ideological Distortions

The Inquirer reported one government official saying that “they should stop watching the TV soaps and pay more attention to the weather reports.” [17] Given that there appear to have been inadequate warnings from the government and total unpreparedness, that comment is simply despicable. In the words of an old saying, “It’s the rich that gets the gravy, and the poor that gets the blame.” [18] (


[1] M. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino, Famines and the Making of the Third World (2001); see also R. Garcia, Nature Pleads Not Guilty (1981).

[2] I analyzed the Inquirer reports because it has the highest circulation of the broadsheets and because it speaks to and for the “center,” which makes it a crucial ideological institution.

[3] The “equalization” theme was stated early and maintained and developed during its coverage of Ondoy. See A. Lopez, “No rich, no poor for Ondoy’s onslaught”, PDI, Sept. 27, 2009. Lopez was the first to use the phrase “the great equalizer.” And see J. Andrade et al, “Survivors seethe with anger,” PDI, Sept. 28, 2009: “the flooding made no distinction between the rich and the poor.”

[4] For obvious reasons, biblical allusions were common in the Inquirer’s reportage, suggesting it was part of God’s mysterious work, from which we were all at risk regardless of class. See B. Olivares-Cunanan, “Biblical-like floods catch nation by surprise”, PDI, Sept. 29, 2009; Editorial, “Perfect flood,” PDI, Sept. 28, 2009; N. Cruz, “Why did the flood rise so high and so fast?”, PDI, Sept. 28, 2009. See also Andrade, note 3.

[5] The framing involved inter-related themes such as “equalization” of suffering among rich and poor; that such events are essentially understood as being caused by observable natural, non-human phenomenon. These themes are sometimes expressed directly as in Lopez, note 3, and sometimes indirectly e.g. by biblical allusions — Noah and the Great Flood — or through personal accounts from individuals, see note 6.

[6] R. Jimenez-David, “Bringing home the lessons of global warming,” PDI, Sept. 27, 2009; C. de Quiros, “Flood,” PDI, Sept. 28, 2009. R. Jimenez-David, “After the flood,” PDI, Sept. 29, 2009.

[7] See the analysis of B. Oliveros, “In Ondoy’s Aftermath, the Poor Still Bear the Brunt of Disaster,”, Oct. 13, 2009; C. Conde, “Poor Are Worst Hit By Ondoy: Inept Leadership Makes Them Suffer Even More,”, Oct. 2, 2009.
[8] Ibon Foundation, “Ondoy Pushes Tens of Thousands Into Severe Difficulty, Long-Term Poverty,”, Oct. 2, 2009.

[9] See Cruz, note 4; N. Dizon, “Ondoy a preview of more disasters to come-Atienza,” PDI, Sept. 29, 2009.

[10] See Editorial, “Caught unprepared,” PDI, Sept. 29, 2009; C. de Quiros, “Still flood,” PDI, Sept. 29, 2009; M.Ubac et al, “Slow response by gov’t triggers anger,” PDI, Sept. 29, 2009. And see A. Padilla, “Analysis: Beyond Ondoy and Climate Change: Blame Goes to Arroyo and Teodoro,”, Oct. 2, 2009.

[11] See e.g. Inquirer Research Sources, “Worst floods in the Philippines,” PDI, Sept. 28, 2009. But see B. Courtice on the Philippine floods, “Behind the ‘natural’ disaster,”, Oct. 14, 2009.

[12] The Inquirer did report a call from Bishop Tria Tirona of Infanta Prelature condemning massive logging in the Sierra Madre mountains that threatened death and destruction as “Mother Nature is now exacting vengeance and fighting back,” in D. Maliari Jr, “Church’s plea: Stop Sierra Madre logging,” PDI, Sept. 29, 2009. See more generally, Center for People Empowerment in Government (CenPEG), “Analysis: Ondoy, Pepeng and the Bane of Development Illusion,”, Oct. 16, 2009.

[13] See J.Ellao, “Closure of ‘Destructive Dams’ Urged,”, Oct.17, 2009; A. Remollino, “Dam Nation: A Bloody History of Struggle Against Dams,” ibid.

[14] See A. Gonzalez, “Reminders from little brother Ondoy,” PDI, Oct. 4, 2009, in which she argues for a program of “ecological restoration” in the flood areas of Metro Manila; W. Ang, “What “Ondoy” can teach us about urban planning,” ibid. See also M. Salamat, “In Marikina Ondoy Shatters a Myth,”, Oct. 2, 2009.

[15] R. Nasol, “Time to modernize Pagasa, says Albay gov,” PDI, Sept. 27, 2009: “the crux of the causation… is failure of warning.”

[16] Again, framing causation as a “natural” and overwhelming event, see N. Dizon, “Ondoy dumped more rains than Katrina,” PDI, Sept. 27, 2009. See the criticism of the “more than Katrina” line, and a reference to the billions of pesos wasted by the GMA regime which should have gone into water drainage, rubber boats etc but “We have Le Cirque to blame” not Pagasa, in C. de Quiros, “Still, flood, PDI, Sept. 29, 2009.

[17] Quoted in Andrade, note 3; see the response by C. de Quiros, note 10. See also more victim blaming in J. Aurelio, “We warned them but they did not leave their homes,” PDI, Oct. 14, 2009. But see the response to that by a science advocacy group in A. Papa, “Napocor, San Roque dam execs dodging blame, militants say,” PDI, Oct. 14, 2009. (Note the use of “militants” in the headline). And see M. Ubac, “Dam managers called liars,” PDI, Oct. 15, 2009, referring to accusations by a provincial governor against those, motivated by profit, responsible for flooding his province by a tardy, and therefore excessive, water release.

[18] An example of elite Filipino attitudes to the poor is the remark made some weeks before Ondoy by Vice President Noli de Castro who said that the urban poor were “lazy” because they did not always pay their rents on time. Many of these people live precariously and were among those who had their homes destroyed and suffered death and destruction from Ondoy. See “For Calling Them Lazy and ‘KSP,’ Poor Filipinos Strike back at Noli de Castro,”, Sept. 22, 2009.

Share This Post

2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Do a piece also on how the graduates of Ateneo and UP are ruling this country but making up the bulk of government officials who are corrupt — thieves.

    A wake up call to the priests in Ateneo and to the teachers in UP.


Comments are closed.