Prayers or action?

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    EARTHQUAKES have an uncanny way of reminding us that life as we know it is by and large fleeting. One minute you are a barangay chairman actively preparing for the next aftershock, monitoring donations of tents and relief goods for your devastated constituents.

    The next minute you are dead, buried under the rubble and debris, hollow blocks and steel bars, of your collapsed barangay hall.

    The series of quakes in Mindanao hit every one, although Kidapawan, Davao del Sur and certain areas suffered greater damage than others. The lowly farm worker, the poor fisherman, and the nation’s President who lives in Davao City all had cracks in their homes, their glass windows shattered.

    Centuries of science and development explained to humans that the earth is still a cooling planet, thus there are faults on its crust and there are daily movements so mild and superficial that only our seismologic instruments notice. When these movements become huge, they are called earthquakes and people notice, and react with panic.

    In their panic, almost everyone think of death, and by extension, God. Earthquakes and the fear of sudden death evoke in people their latent religiosity. Prayers may be done, as advocated by Cardinal Tagle, Senate President Tito Sotto, Senators Joel Villanueva and Manny Pacquiao. Relief goods, clothes, tents, rice and water such as those bought and delivered by Angel Locsin are palpable manifestation of solidarity with the victims, better than prayers that they do not really need.

    Thus reaction to earthquakes and disasters in general should go beyond prayer. With or without it, the planet’s core will continue to cool off. God’s intervention is not needed. Epicurus was right 2,200 years ago.

    Instead of calling for prayers and God’s help, our senators should instead focus on what government, and specifically their chamber, can do. Back from their vacation, they should buckle down to work.

    While Senators Joel and Manny and Tito wanted to pray, Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino instead pushed to revisit the National Building Code, the law on vertical structures that is so outdated it is still a “presidential decree” of the Marcos martial law era.

    Tolentino wants to fast-track the proposed Department of Disaster Management to rationalize government response to disasters, in the mold of Japan Reconstruction Agency.

    Tol realized that our LGUs only have the city or municipal engineer and his lean staff to do all the tasks of monitoring, regulating, inspecting, etc. of public and private structures. Structural engineers are badly needed in these areas, Tolentino said, and they are experts in what they do, unlike ordinary civil engineers.

    Had structural engineers been utilized, the tragedies in Ecoland 4000 in Davao City and Eva Hotel in Kidapawan would have been prevented. That’s what Tol is saying, and he’s preparing a Civil Conscription Bill to widen this deployment.