TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - Pope Francis denounced in prepared speeches for delivery on Saturday "so many tragic signs of evil" in the relief and recovery efforts mounted in the wake of the most devastating typhoon to hit the Philippines in 2003.
But surrounded by gut-wrenching reminders of Supertyphoon "Yolanda," the Pope disregarded the speeches condemning corruption to speak from the heart. The Vatican press office later lifted the embargo on the speeches and told reporters they could be published.
In the text of his homily during the Mass for the survivors at the Tacloban airport, the Pope said the victims of the typhoon, internationally called "Haiyan," were beneficiaries of the "generosity of so many people and so many small miracles of goodness."
"But you have also seen, in the profiteering, the looting and the failed responses to this great human drama, so many tragic signs of the evil from which Christ came to save us," he said.
"Let us pray that this, too, will lead us to greater trust in the power of God's grace to overcome sin and selfishness. Let us pray in particular that it will make everyone more sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. Let us pray that it will lead to a rejection of all forms of injustice and corruption, which, by stealing from the poor, poison the very roots of society."
In his prepared address for the clergy and religious at the Palo Cathedral, the Pope urged fair treatment especially of the poor.
"I asked that the poor of this country be treated fairly-that their dignity be respected, that political and economic policies be just and inclusive, that opportunities for employment and education be developed, and that obstacles to the delivery of social services be removed," he said.
"Our treatment of the poor is the criterion on which each of us will be judged," he added.
Yolanda left more than 6,300 people dead and 1,000 missing. About 1.5 million families were affected while over 910,000 families were displaced.
The Aquino administration has allotted P167.9 billion (S$5 billion) in the national budget for the next two years to finance the recovery and rehabilitation plan for 171 cities and municipalities in 44 provinces in six regions affected by Yolanda.
Of that budget, P75.7 billion has been allotted for resettlement, P35.1 billion for infrastructure, P30.6 billion for livelihood and P26.4 billion for social services.
As of November, the government has released about P52 billion to support government relief and rehabilitation efforts in the provinces affected by the supertyphoon.
Foreign aid pledged to the recovery effort totaled P73.3 billion, while foreign aid received by government and nongovernment organisations totaled P17.2 billion, according to the latest report posted on Foreign Aid Transparency Hub website.
In December, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson tendered his irrevocable resignation as rehabilitation czar, saying it was "not practical to create ad hoc bodies" like the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery but instead allow another government agency to do the job permanently.
Lacson's resignation will take effect on Feb. 10 after his office completes the transfer of reconstruction-related tasks to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.