MANILA - Government is now looking for ways to secure a formal and legal declaration of death for people still missing nearly five years since Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated several areas in the Visayas.
Some 1,005 people are still listed as missing since the 2013 monster storm, said Edgar Posadas, Director of the Rehabilitation and Recovery Management Service of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
He said efforts have been made to attempt a cross-match of recovered remains and skeletal remains against specimens submitted by relatives and survivors looking for their loved ones, but no match has been established.
“Dun sa Civil Code of the Philippines, kapag apat na taon and you were presumed to be a victim ng malaking disaster, tapos apat na taon kang missing, incommunicado, after all exhaustive efforts, hindi ka nahanap, puwede kang ideklara, pero we need the declaration of the court,” said Posadas.
(Under the Civil Code of the Philippines, if a presumed victim of a huge disaster has been missing for 4 years, incommunicado, after all exhaustive efforts have been made and [the person] is still not found, that person can be declared dead, but we need the declaration of the court.)
Posadas, who once served as Regional Director of OCD in Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), said that before he left his previous post, lawyers and even judges in the region convened to discuss how they could help relatives and survivors of those missing to expedite the process.
He said the law requires that after four years, a missing person could be declared dead if a petitioner could show proof and documents to convince the court.
But the process would entail expenses and legwork that may not be affordable to victims from the low-income sector.
Initially, the direction is to establish a link with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) so that free legal services may be provided to survivors looking for their loved ones.
A legal declaration of death for a missing person is important not only to provide closure for the loss and grief of families, but also to allow them to function socially.
The declaration may be used to establish claims on insurance, social security, death benefits, single-parent benefit, and even allow a person who lost a husband or wife to remarry.