MANILA - Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial on Monday said she was misquoted in a media report that 59 evacuees from conflict-torn Marawi City have allegedly died in evacuation centers.
The writer of the report, Ubial said, misheard the figures she gave during a chance interview last Thursday.
"Nagtanong po ang mga taga-media kung ilan na po ang casualty o deaths sa ating mga evacuation center. Sinabi ko po na 19, one-nine. Tapos may isang taga-media, di ko na po sasabihin kung sino, nagtanong 'Ma'am, may nababalita pong apat na namatay dahil sa dehydration,'" Ubial told radio DZMM.
"Sabi ko, 'Opo, may apat na po.' Akala niya, apatnapu. So idinagdag iyung 40 at 19, naging 59. Pero hindi po nanggaling sa akin ang apatnapu."
(The media asked about the death toll at evacuation centers. I said 19, one-nine. A reporter asked about rumors that four have died due to dehydration. I said, 'yes there are four.' She heard forty. So she added 40 to 19 and got 59. But the 40 count did not come from me.)
The death toll, she added, has reached 24 as of Sunday.
Ubial said most of the evacuees died of "pre-existing conditions" like cancer and kidney ailment.
She added that the fatalities died at hospitals, not evacuation centers.
"Mayroon po kasing standing order ang ating mga health personnel na pag may sakit na ay huwag nang hihintayin na lumala at idiretso na agad sa mga ospital," she said.
(Our health personnel have a standing order not to wait for the evacuees' condition to get worse, but rather bring them immediately to hospitals.)