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article imageOp-Ed: Pnoy's Typhoon Haiyan's death toll counting system stinks

By Leo Reyes     Nov 28, 2013 in Environment
More than three weeks after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered central Philippines, President Benigno Aquino (Pnoy to Filipinos) has not changed his self-imposed system of counting the number of dead bodies in Tacloban City and other affected areas.
A few days after the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan, Aquino disputed the estimated death toll by one of the ranking officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who had a first-hand knowledge of the devastation.
Being one of the high-ranking PNP officers who visited Tacloban City two days after Typhoon Haiyan flattened the city with its 315 kph wind, Chief Supt Elmer Soria, regional commander of Eastern Visayas, may have toured the devastated city in the aftermath of the killer typhoon before talking to media.
Soria's statement on the possible death toll was based on the estimate by the Leyte Governor, who is a party mate of the president.
"We had a meeting last night (Saturday, November 9) with the governor and based on the government's estimates, initially there are 10,000 casualties (dead)," Soria was quoted as saying.
For his candid estimate on the death toll caused by Typhoon Haiyan and quoting from a reliable source (Leyte Governor), Soria was relieved of his post.
Last Tuesday, Nov. 26 or more than two weeks after his relief as Regional Commander for Eastern VIsayas, Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Soria has been reinstated but he will have to go debriefing process.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Aquino said Soria and the governor of Leyte may have been under enormous stress when they made the death toll estimate and insisted that the death count is far below the 10,000 estimate.
Residents walk in a village among houses destroyed by super Typhoon Haiyan in Tanauan  Leyte in cent...
Residents walk in a village among houses destroyed by super Typhoon Haiyan in Tanauan, Leyte in central Philippines
With permission by Reuters / John Javellana
Meanwhile, the Internet is abuzz with criticisms on the way the government is handling the search and recovery of the typhoon casualties three weeks after the landfall.
More bodies have been recovered from the shorelines of the badly-hit areas but they are not counted pending their identities.
Netizens do not understand why the government seems to hide or under-report the casualties.
Michael Sellers, who has many relatives and friends in the affected areas and who has been in the country for many years, said the people know the death toll is higher than what is being fed to media. He quoted the president as saying:
“We want to give figures [that cannot be doubted], because we don’t want to increase the people’s anxiety, especially those with missing relatives.”
In addressing the president, Sellers said; "Mr. President, the government’s figures ARE doubted precisely BECAUSE the government is holding back the truth. People know the death toll is much higher than is being acknowledged."
"The policy you’re describing is simply a government in denial. Being in denial about the death toll gives no comfort to the families of the missing. Now, 17 days after the typhoon struck, they know what “missing” means, and the government pretending otherwise gives them no comfort."
A typhoon victim holds a placard asking for food while standing amongst the ruins of houses destroye...
A typhoon victim holds a placard asking for food while standing amongst the ruins of houses destroyed by super typhoon Haiyan in Tanauan, Leyte in central Philippines
With permission by Reuters
To simplify the death toll count, some netizens suggest that subsequent bodies recovered should be automatically added to the official death count without naming them. A separate list of those not yet officially identified should be made so that an accurate number of casualties can be established once the list is added to the official count.
Some people just do not understand why the government continues to be in denial about the death toll for no apparent reason—except maybe for political mileage?
But just how can this transform into a positive political point for the administration when the party in power is getting a beating from the public for mishandling the situation on moral ground?
Meanwhile, dead bodies under the rubble continues to stink in the badly-hit areas as foreign aid and recovery teams prepare to pull out to return to their respective mother units.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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