Victims, criminals, and survivors – these are dominant ways in which the media portrays communities affected by disasters. These portrayals are not benign. They present a deficient form of citizenship that reduces communities to disempowered subjects whose agency can only be realised with humanitarian responses or disciplinary action by the state. In this article, we make a case for portraying disaster-affected communities as political agents who assert their status as co-equal citizens bearing ideas and grievances, capable of justifying their views, and have a stake in shaping the course of post-disaster response. We argue that this portrayal is not only normatively desirable but politically possible. We draw on the case of People Surge – a grassroots alliance formed in the Philippines in 2013 in the aftermath of the world’s strongest storm.