DEATH TOLL, AS OF NOV. 20, 4,011

BREAKING NEWS: Gov't issues gag order on 'Yolanda' death toll announcements (PHILSTAR)

The gag order was issued after the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a total of 4,460 people killed in the typhoon and at least 921,200 individuals were displaced. The UN-OCHA also pegged the number of people affected by the typhoon to 11.8 million and a total of 243,000 houses destroyed.

Gov’t stops ‘Yolanda’ body count at 4,011 (INQUIRER)

While relief operations have gained speed over the past days, counting the dead, missing and injured has stalled. The national disaster agency has stopped releasing the updated casualty number from Tacloban City and the rest of the Eastern Visayas after placing on Wednesday the latest official death toll from Supertyphoon “Yolanda” at 4,011 people.

ALSO: Ombudsman OKs pork scam raps vs. Napoles, 3 senators

“The investigating team has found merit in the plunder charge and the respondents will be asked to submit their counter-affidavits,” the source told the Inquirer on the condition that he would not be named for lack of authority to speak to media. When asked if this meant charges would soon be filed in the Sandiganbayan, he said: “If there was no merit in the charges of the NBI, there would be no need for the Ombudsman to ask the respondents to submit their explanations through a counter-affidavit; the case would have been immediately discarded.”

ALSO: Santiago tags Enrile pork scam godfather

Janet Lim-Napoles, a high-school graduate from the poor and conflict-torn Basilan province in southern Philippines, could not have built a pork barrel “empire” by herself, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Thursday. The real empire builder had to be someone more intelligent and powerful, Santiago said, referring to the brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam blamed on Napoles.

ALSO: F. TATAD: Aquino must go now

Asked how he would reassure his people in the face of the terrible calamity, Aquino said typhoons were not an unusual occurrence in the Philippines, and that “we have been able to demonstrate as a government and as a people collectively that we take care of each other. And that the government’s immediate response, I think, has been reassuring to the vast majority of our people.” Instead of admitting and assuming responsibility, Aquino tried to pass it on to the local government unit, whose structures and facilities, if any, had been totally washed out. “We are now trying to fast-track the situation where the national government takes over this local government function,” Aquino said. A long week has passed, and Aquino is still “trying to fast-track” the appropriate response?


Gov’t stops ‘Yolanda’ body count at 4,011 By Dona Z. Pazzibugan Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:19 am | Thursday, November 21st, 2013


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Residents stand beside dead bodies that lie on the street after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Tacloban City, Leyte province central Philippines on Nov. 9, 2013. The national disaster agency has stopped releasing the updated casualty number from Tacloban and the rest of the Eastern Visayas after placing on Wednesday, Nov. 20, the latest official death toll from Supertyphoon “Yolanda” at 4,011 people. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 (INQUIRER) While relief operations have gained speed over the past days, counting the dead, missing and injured has stalled.

The national disaster agency has stopped releasing the updated casualty number from Tacloban City and the rest of the Eastern Visayas after placing on Wednesday the latest official death toll from Supertyphoon “Yolanda” at 4,011 people.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported 1,602 missing and 18,557 injured.

The official death toll did not reflect the 1,172 bodies that a 300-member task force collected from the streets of Tacloban City from Nov. 16 to 19.

The council reported only 694 dead in Tacloban, a number that has been unchanged since Nov. 13, or five days after Yolanda devastated large swaths of the Visayas and parts of northern Palawan province.
NDRRMC Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario said the council was not updating the death toll from the Eastern Visayas because it had changed the policy on accounting for the dead.

“The count that should be submitted should be duly signed by the local chief executive and the city health officer,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

When reminded of his earlier claim that the NDRRMC had to validate the field report first before updating its official tally, Del Rosario said he was just following orders.

“That is the directive of the Task Force (Yolanda), that it will be the basis of the official count,” said the head of the agency that is supposed to coordinate all government disaster response.

On Friday, Del Rosario said no other agency would release the official death toll after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported a higher death toll.

Initial estimate rejected

Three days after Yolanda struck, President Aquino rejected the estimate that at least 10,000 could have died from the strongest typhoon recorded in history. Aquino gave his own estimate of 2,000 to 2,500 dead.

Days later, the Eastern Visayas regional police director who was quoted as placing the death toll at 10,000 was relieved of his post.

Most of the casualties on official count were from the Eastern Visayas where 3,725 were confirmed dead, according to the NDRRMC.

It said 3,310 bodies were found in Leyte, 221 in Eastern Samar, 190 in Samar and four on Biliran island.

In the rest of the affected regions, the NDRRMC confirmed 113 dead in Western Visayas; 72 in Central Visayas; five each in Bicol and Mimaropa; two in Calabarzon; and one each in Caraga and in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Mass burial site

Left on the city’s streets since Yolanda struck, the 1,172 bodies that were collected starting Nov. 16 in Tacloban have been brought to the mass burial site.

The commander of the group dubbed Task Force Cadaver, which was created last Saturday, has been reporting daily to national government officials in Tacloban.

A total 780 bodies were recovered last Saturday, 125 on Sunday, 151 on Monday and 116 on Tuesday, according to Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, director of the Bureau of Fire Protection-Eastern Visayas.

Cordeta said the mass grave was about six meters deep and the bodies were piled five-deep. Another mass grave has to be dug soon.

Mostly unidentified

Except for five firefighters from Tacloban and Tanauan, all the 3,725 dead officially reported in Eastern Visayas were unidentified. All the 1,573 missing and 17,821 injured from the region were also unidentified.

Cordeta said his group would complete the task of recovering bodies in Tacloban before it moved to other municipalities.

The task force has about 300 members from 12 different agencies.

“We believe that there are victims under the debris. But there are no more bodies visible to the passersby,” he said.

ICRC guidelines on burial

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday said it had reached an agreement with the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the mass burial of those who perished from Yolanda.

For Tacloban, the ICRC said the authorities had agreed to follow guidelines for the “management of the dead” developed jointly by the ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO). The ICRC is closely coordinating its forensic work in the Philippines with the WHO through the DOH and the NBI.

“There are certain procedures that should be followed to preserve the dignity of the victims and facilitate their identification.

“The dead should be properly collected and placed in temporary burial places, to allow for forensic investigation later.

Photographs should be taken, and any descriptive information and postmortem data should be recorded,” said Andres Patino, the ICRC expert in humanitarian forensic action and the first forensic specialist to arrive in Tacloban.

The ICRC, in a statement, said its agreement with the DOH and local authorities in Tacloban for an emergency plan for the proper management of the dead takes into account the scarcity of available resources.”

The guidelines are contained in the “Management of Dead Bodies after Disasters: A Field Manual for First Responders” co-published by the ICRC in 2009.

The guidelines, among others, call on authorities to designate one or more persons in charge of body recovery; storage; identification; information and communication; disposal; support for families; and logistics.

The ICRC also reiterated that there was “no public health justification for rapid mass burials.”

Negligible health hazard

Contrary to what many people believe, the bodies of those who die in a natural disaster do not cause epidemics, and they are a negligible health hazard.

The group said it was probable that most victims of Yolanda died of injuries, drowning or fire, and were not likely to have had epidemic-causing diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria or the plague when they died.

“There is only a small risk of developing diarrhea by drinking water contaminated by the corpses—a risk smaller than that caused by the living—and that risk can be eliminated by routinely disinfecting and/or boiling water to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

“In any case, most people avoid drinking water from any source that may have been in contact with dead bodies or other causes of contamination,” Patino added.

The ICRC said hasty and uncoordinated burials of the dead without proper identification can be very painful for the bereaved.

“Improper and undignified management of the dead can traumatize families and communities, and may have serious legal consequences, as it may be impossible to recover and identify the remains later. The victims will simply be missing,” the group said.

Nancy Fournier, a member of the ICRC delegation in Manila and in charge of protection, said careful handling of the remains was important during disasters.

“People feel an overwhelming need to know what happened to their missing relatives. Families with no information on the whereabouts of loved ones are grief-stricken. Giving them the possibility to identify their missing relative—even dead—is crucial. They need to know what happened to be able to start mourning,” she said.

Some 35,000 people in the Philippines and abroad have so far asked the Philippine Red Cross to trace family members who have gone missing since Yolanda’s onslaught.—With a report from Jerome Aning

FROM PHILSTAR

Gov't issues gag order on 'Yolanda' death toll announcements By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated November 15, 2013 - 5:42pm 110 7334 googleplus0 21

MANILA, Philippines - National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario said he issued on Friday a gag order on all government agencies regarding making statements on the number of fatalities from super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Del Rosario said he has directed all member agencies of the Council not to release unofficial or unvalidated information regarding the ongoing operations in Eastern Visayas.

"During our meeting, sinabihan natin lahat ang ating member-agency na wala nang magsasabi ng kanyang opinyon without the official figure para isa lang ang vioice with regards to number of casualties, and that would be the NDRRMC," Del Rosario said in a briefing at the agency's headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Del Rosario said that announcements on the official figures on the super typhoon's effect should come from him, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and theif spokespersons.

Gazmin, the chief of the Department of National Defense, chairs the NDRRMC while the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas acts as its co-chairperson.

The gag order was issued after the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a total of 4,460 people killed in the typhoon and at least 921,200 individuals were displaced.

The UN-OCHA also pegged the number of people affected by the typhoon to 11.8 million and a total of 243,000 houses destroyed.

Official death toll

During the press briefing, Del Rosario said that the official death toll as of Friday afternoon was 3,621.

The figure is lower than the UN's report, but higher than the projected figure announced by President Benigno Aquino III during an interview with CNN.

President Aquino said that the dead could only reach between 2,000 and 2,500, denying an earlier estimate by the regional police official in Eastern Visayas of 10,000 fatalities.

The police official has been sacked from his post.

"Actually, we are trying to find out dahil may quoted agencies. we coordinated with those agencies mentioned and they claimed that they did not give any figure. So we are still validating and finding out how come this publication went out," he said, referring to the UN report.

Del Rosario, meanwhile, explained how they meticulously check and counter-check the figures coming from the field.

He said the NDRRMC is revalidating the figures on dead persons given by the local executives in a particular area before releasing them to the public.

"Kailangan talaga yung physical count. Iyon ang kailangan natin. Magkakaroon kasi ng problema kapag sinabi nila we have buried already gumawa na sila ng mass grave. Hindi naman natin buksan na at hukayin uli. So ang gagawin na naman natin is to talk to the local official," Del Rosario said.

Ombudsman OKs pork scam raps vs. Napoles, 3 senators By Nancy C. Carvajal Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:10 am | Tuesday, November 19th, 2013


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MERIT IN PLUNDER CHARGE. The Office of the Ombudsman has found merit in the plunder case filed by the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation against alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim–Napoles, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and others linked to the alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, a source privy to the investigation said. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

MANILA -The Office of the Ombudsman has found merit in the plunder case filed by the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim–Napoles, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and others linked to the alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, a source privy to the investigation said.

“The investigating team has found merit in the plunder charge and the respondents will be asked to submit their counter-affidavits,” the source told the Inquirer on the condition that he would not be named for lack of authority to speak to media.

When asked if this meant charges would soon be filed in the Sandiganbayan, he said: “If there was no merit in the charges of the NBI, there would be no need for the Ombudsman to ask the respondents to submit their explanations through a counter-affidavit; the case would have been immediately discarded.”

Another source from the Ombudsman said that subpoenas would be issued to all the 38 respondents starting Tuesday.

“The docketing of the plunder cases started yesterday and subpoenas for the respondents will be sent out immediately,” the source said.

Docketing, the source explained, is the process of assigning case numbers to the respondents which also means that the “respondents officially now have criminal and administrative cases pending in the Ombudsman.”

The source explained that cases where high-ranking officials are involved are classified as “special cases and given top priority.”

The source also said that Benhur Luy and seven other former employees of Napoles who had turned whistle-blowers had already faced the Ombudsman’s own fact-finding investigators to affirm the affidavits they submitted earlier that detailed the alleged scam.

Santiago tags Enrile pork scam godfather By TJ A. Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:10 am | Friday, November 8th, 2013

Janet Lim-Napoles, a high-school graduate from the poor and conflict-torn Basilan province in southern Philippines, could not have built a pork barrel “empire” by herself, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Thursday.

The real empire builder had to be someone more intelligent and powerful, Santiago said, referring to the brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam blamed on Napoles.

And who was that?

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Santiago said, describing the former Senate President as the godfather of the pork barrel scam.

“He is,” Santiago said when asked if it really was Enrile.



“His paternity is unquestionable. His DNA has been confirmed,” Santiago said.

The 89-year-old Enrile, who did not appear at Thursday’s hearing called by the Senate blue ribbon committee for the questioning of Napoles on the systematic theft of development funds, denied Santiago’s accusation.

“I feel compelled to issue a statement on today’s Senate hearing lest my silence in the face of the most outrageous allegations will be construed against me,” Enrile said.

“I support any investigation that seeks to uncover the truth about this PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam,” he said.

“To this end, I urge Mrs. Napoles to reveal the whole truth no matter who is hurt, as only the truth will set me free,” he said.

‘Wild-eyed charges’

Without mentioning Santiago by name, Enrile said some members of the blue ribbon committee used the hearing to make “wild-eyed charges, baseless assumptions and false accusations” through which they “converted the investigation into a parody of justice.”

“They should lead the facts to a just conclusion instead of corralling their own predilections into a preordained conclusion,” Enrile said.

“Finally, let me reiterate my innocence and that of my staff members and my office,” he said.

In an interview with reporters, Santiago said testimonies from the whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scandal as well as reports by state auditors would point to Enrile as the “most guilty.”

“There are 36 of them. You have 36 people swearing on their lives. You can’t ignore 36 testimonies,” she said. “You can’t ignore actual testimonial and documentary evidence. You’ve got documentary and testimonial evidence. As trial judges, we don’t need anything more.”

Relations between Santiago and Enrile soured after a dispute over Christmas bonuses in the Senate last year.

Not the guiltiest

Santiago, who questioned Napoles for close to an hour during the hearing, said she believed the 49-year-old businesswoman wasn’t the “most guilty.”

If at all, the “most guilty” was a group of public officials, either senators or Cabinet officials, or a mix of both, she said.

“They’re the kernel. They’re the source of her strength. She wouldn’t have had the guts if she didn’t have protection,” Santiago told reporters during a break in the hearing.

“She wasn’t born rich. She didn’t have the connections to get rich that quick. She didn’t even finish college,” she said.

She wondered: How did Napoles end up a foreign investor?

“It’s not possible that a woman like her, no matter how invested, how talented, could possibly build up an empire consisting of senators, Cabinet members and representatives in so short a time. She started from poverty; she admits it. She did not even finish college,” she added.

Singled out

The doubt about Napoles being the mastermind behind the pork barrel scam came up with the senators’ offer of immunity for her in exchange for her disclosing the identity of the real brains behind the racket.

Santiago told Napoles that she must be the least guilty, not the most guilty, to be given immunity and she went on to say that Napoles could not be the most guilty one in the conspiracy to steal public funds.

Santiago singled out Enrile, who is facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman for the scam along with Napoles, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and 34 others, in her discussion of the most guilty.

“Who emboldened her? Enrile. He was the Senate President at the time,” Santiago said.

COA audit report

In a special audit of the PDAF, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that P6.2 billion in pork was transferred to 82 nongovernment organizations from 2007 to 2009, including at least eight that had links to Napoles.

The funds were sourced from the PDAF allocations of Revilla (P413.29 million), Enrile (P332.7 million), Estrada (P191.58 million) and Sen. Gregorio Honasan (P14.55 million), among other lawmakers.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Aquino must go now By Francisco S. Tatad | Nov. 15, 2013 at 12:03am 304

I flew to Cebu on Tuesday to address the 37th Annual Convention of the Philippine Association of Religious Treasurers on Wednesday morning, an invitation I had accepted before the 7.2 earthquake hit the city and Bohol, before super-typhoon Yolanda totaled Tacloban next door.

Cebu appears to have bounced back from the worst effects of the earthquake, but everyone spoke of the death, destruction, hunger and suffering that have descended upon Tacloban.

Many Leytenos have taken refuge in Cebu, and people trying to bring help from Manila were using Cebu as a transit point. On Wednesday afternoon, at Mactan international airport, I listened to their stories, which confirmed everything we have seen and heard on BBC and CNN.

A young matron held back her tears in anger as she spoke of “the total absence of government.”

She got even angrier when someone read a Twitter message, which had obviously gone viral, from CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Cooper had been reporting out of Tacloban, and his tweet, which summarized his broadcast, said: “There is no leader, there is no government, there is no civil defense in the Philippines.”

“Where is PNoy in all this?” asked the woman, with all the passion of her gender. “The government has taught us to steal even though we hate them for stealing the pork barrel,” grieved a young teenager, obviously a native of Leyte, and referring to the looting of shops for food in Tacloban.

All this hit me like a ton of bricks even as I sat on the plane.

I thought I had heard the worst from that airport conversation. But no, as soon as I got home I tried to update to myself on what Cooper had reported earlier on CNN, and on President B. S. Aquino III’s interview with the veteran CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour. Cooper’s report showed all the images to back up his tweet.

“Simply there isn’t enough aid and what aid there is isn’t getting out to those who need it the most,” he said. “There’s very little organization in terms of the Philippine side. That’s the frustrating thing for the people here,” he added. Of course, Anderson’s tweet was instantaneously trashed on one TV station.

Amanpour’s interview defied description. I thought my vocabulary was wide enough to allow me to describe the interview with adequate precision, but no, I couldn’t. I could not find the right word for it.

Unreal, surreal was simply not good enough, there must be another word for it. Amanpour’s long experience in covering wars, rebellions, disasters had not sufficiently hardened her to be able to suppress her emotion in describing the humanitarian ordeal, but Aquino looked completely detached, uninvolved, unfeeling, unaffected by the incredible human tragedy that has covered the world with grief and pain.

Aside from a suppressed half-smile that had no place in that conversation, Aquino was totally expressionless as he mechanically answered Amanpour’s probing questions like a sixth grader who had memorized a script and tried to spit it out without understanding what he was saying.

Asked how he would reassure his people in the face of the terrible calamity, Aquino said typhoons were not an unusual occurrence in the Philippines, and that “we have been able to demonstrate as a government and as a people collectively that we take care of each other. And that the government’s immediate response, I think, has been reassuring to the vast majority of our people.”

This was not just a terrible misreading of the sentiment on the ground but a pure and simple lie. The Aquino government remains paralyzed, period.

Instead of admitting and assuming responsibility, Aquino tried to pass it on to the local government unit, whose structures and facilities, if any, had been totally washed out. “We are now trying to fast-track the situation where the national government takes over this local government function,” Aquino said. A long week has passed, and Aquino is still “trying to fast-track” the appropriate response?

The survivors are looking up to heaven, the dead are piling up, and the death toll has been estimated at as much as 10, 000, said Amanpour. What could Aquino say to that? “About 2,500 is the number we are working on as far as deaths are concerned,”

Aquino said, as though he was talking of cattle or bangus fingerlings. A more sensitive president would probably have said, one death is one too many even in the worst tragedy, and he was hoping and praying the death toll could be kept as low as possible. But he showed no sign he was talking of human lives, not mere statistics, cattle or fingerlings.

Amanpour asked about his moral responsibility as President. “Clearly, I don’t know whether you will agree,” she said, “but the way you respond or your government responds to this terrible devastation will probably define your presidency. Many have talked about how much efforts have gone in, how much reform you have done, how much work you have done against corruption, but many people might end up judging you on how your government has responded. What do you say to that?”

He missed the question altogether. He answered: “I think you can ask all the governors, for instance, of the areas that have been saying that our making them aware of the dangers that were forthcoming from this typhoon enabled them to move their population from danger areas to safer areas and thereby minimize casualties.

A lot of them, with the exception of Leyte province, Eastern and Wetern Samar, have reported that practically well, one or two casualties or even zero casualties, when normally when we have a typhoon you will also have ships that were traveling that would have sunk, casualties in the hundreds probably didn’t merit too much attention.”

The truth is none of those other areas were hit as badly as Leyte and Samar.

I was waiting for Amanpour to say: “You’re truly for the birds, Mr. President.” But she was extremely courteous to the very end, and ended the interview before it became cruel and unusual punishment to the viewer.

After listening to the interview, I felt I had to apologize to the religious congregations that had heard me earlier in Cebu.

At the request of Sister Maria Lirio Gavan, SPC, chairperson of the convention, I had spoken about “Our Hope for a Better Philippines.” I had tried to give an extensive lecture, but failed to mention one important point.

I am now convinced that Aquino’s immediate departure from the presidency is a conditio sine qua non for the country’s recovery from the recent disasters, and for the building of a much better Philippines.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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