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Blame game intensifies over Philippines typhoon response

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"A country that doesn't protect its people before disasters has no business panhandling after," wrote Juan Mercado, a columnist in the Philippine Inquirer.

The row may have political consequences as the Philippines prepares to elect a new president next May. Ms. Arroyo, who took office in 2001, isn't eligible to run again. Her defense secretary, Gilbert Teodoro, who has declared his candidacy, chairs a disaster coordinating council that has been criticized over the sluggish flow of aid to storm victims, as well as the continued inundation of some communities.

In a national poll taken before the storms struck and released Wednesday, Mr. Teodoro trailed far behind Sen. Benigno Aquino, who was the choice of 60 percent of respondents. Only 4 percent of respondents named him as their preferred choice.

Mr. Aquino is the largely untested son of popular former President Corazon Aquino, who died in July and is credited for steering the nation to democracy after the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The second placed candidate, Sen. Manuel Villar, polled 37 percent in the survey. Former President Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in 2001 and put on trial for corruption, came third.

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