Dec 6, 2012

Philippines - Inconsistent typhoon death toll irks Philippine president

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Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is irked at the confusing discrepancy between the so-called “official” and “unofficial” death toll.

The death toll from Typhoon “Pablo” (international name: Bopha) stood at 95 as of midday yesterday according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division said at that time that there were 224 people reported dead in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, including four soldiers from Charlie company of the 66th Infantry Battalion.

Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the NDRRMC toll was “official” and the Army report should be regarded as “unofficial.”

(In an updated report at 7pm, the NDRRMC put the overall toll of lives at 274.)

Qualifying the reports was directed yesterday by Gazmin after an apparent discrepancy in the figures reported by the NDRRMC and the media.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer learned that President Aquino was irked by the different numbers.

“Figures coming from the NDRRMC will be the official death count while those coming from the field or the ground will be considered the unofficial death toll,” Gazmin told the Inquirer.

He likened this to the official and unofficial vote count of the Commission on Elections and National Citizens Movement for Free Elections.

Certify first

Gazmin said that the casualties should first be “certified” by the Department of Health, before being reported as an official body count.

“It has to go through this protocol,” Gazmin said. He said that the casualties reported by the NDRRMC had already been verified by the DOH.

NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos said there was indeed “confusion” with the death toll.
He added that the figures coming from the NDRRMC were lower from those gathered from the ground because the transmittal of reports from the regional Office of Civil Defence (OCD) followed a process, which also took time.

It is made worse when communication and power lines are down, making it difficult for the regional and local OCDs to relay their reports, according to Ramos.

More ‘prudent’

He said the NDRRMC also wanted to spare the families of the casualties from the anguish brought by “raw information” being released.

Ramos said that regional OCD offices would issue directives to local government officials to be more “prudent” in releasing disaster updates, especially in reporting casualties.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Panisa, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th ID, said that there were 143 dead in Compostela Valley and 81 in Davao Oriental. The 10th ID has jurisdiction over these provinces.

According to Panisa, 17 soldiers from the 66th IB’s Charlie company were rescued yesterday and were rushed to Tagum Regional Hospital. He said in a report later Wednesday that four soldiers were killed in the flooding.

‘Red area’

He earlier said eight soldiers were missing and identified them as Sergeant Panague, Private First Class Armodia, Private First Class Batua, Sergeant Conejos, Private First Class Hingosa, Private First Class Hopeda, Private First Class Jegapo and Private First Class Aranez.

The Charlie company had set up a temporary command post in Andap village as part of the Army’s peace and development programme. New Bataan town was said to be a “Red area”, a term used by the military when an area is heavily influenced by communist insurgents.

Nikko Dizon

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