DOJ to look into lapses on Yolanda preparedness

By Evelyn Macairan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 27 2013 03:02 AM | Updated as of Nov 27 2013 11:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Possible lapses in the preparations in Eastern Visayas that led to a high number of casualties in Tacloban City and some parts of Leyte that were devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda last Nov. 8 will be looked into by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Last week, President Aquino instructed the DOJ and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to join the task force that would conduct an investigation on the high casualty rate in some areas badly hit by the typhoon.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she is arranging a meeting with the DOST and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) today or tomorrow to determine how they would go about the task given by the President.

It was reported that in Tacloban City alone, more than 1,700 people were killed.

“The President only wants to know how come there were that many casualties. Of course we know that it is supposed to be one of the strongest if not the strongest (typhoon) in history. Maybe it was expected that there would be casualties but maybe the high number of deaths could have been prevented if something was done, and who should have done those measures that could have prevented loss of lives,” De Lima said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II is taking his hands off the investigation on the alleged failure of mayors and governors to act to minimize the damage caused by the super typhoon.

Roxas suggested that a third party should conduct the probe to remove any notion of the administration being biased towards LGU officials in Eastern Samar.

He pointed out that the investigation is meant to identify the mistakes committed and the lessons learned from the tragedy and prevent them in the future.

On questions of Sen. Nancy Binay regarding the P1.25-billion housing program being implemented by the DILG, Roxas said the department delegated the implementation of the housing project to the LGUs.

Meanwhile, De Lima also said that when it comes to identifying the fatalities from the typhoon it is the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that is the lead agency.

NBI officer-in-charge Medardo de Lemos said that they planned to send the fourth Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team to Tacloban yesterday to hasten the identification of the recovered bodies.

However, De Lemos admitted that even if they have already sent four teams to the disaster areas, the DVI experts would not be able to perform their tasks properly because of the lack of infrastructure in the area, such as the availability of continuous water and electricity.

De Lima said that she plans to talk to forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun, who reportedly walked out of Tacloban after the NBI allegedly questioned her system of identifying the bodies.

De Lima believed that Fortun might have only had a misunderstanding with the NBI.

“Maybe Doctor Raquel misunderstood the answer given by one of the teams, when it was explained to her that the NBI is the lead. We have been doing this before,” she said.

The secretary added, “I intend to call her to know what really happened. But based on the explanation given to me by the NBI, our people said they had no intention to insult Doctor Raquel.”

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) yesterday called on the local government units (LGUs) in the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda to keep their eyes open for human trafficking syndicates who might prey on storm survivors who are experiencing economic hardship.

In a statement, the IACAT said that with poverty, hunger, death and economic difficulties prevailing in several areas in Eastern Visayas, the council is not discounting the possibility that human trafficking syndicates might go there to abduct orphaned children or to recruit prospective victims who could be lured with promises of jobs abroad.

De Lima, who is also the concurrent chair of the IACAT, said that the LGUs should give extra protection to young orphans who have become vulnerable after they lost their parents.

“The challenge for LGU officials lies in implementing identity checks on the individuals exiting these areas, especially those adults with children in tow,” she added. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe