Are local authorities under-reporting landslide casualties?

September 25, 2018

I got it from many highly-reliable sources that the death toll as a result of the landslide that hit Naga City in Cebu on Thursday could be by the hundreds, blame it on the penchant of some local authorities for making ‘under-reporting.’

Word is out that the landslide that struck  Sitio Sindulan in Barangay Tina-an and Bgy. Naalad in Naga City fully covered nearly 100 residential houses, not 24 as earlier reported by the mayor’s office.  Some local residents said that the ‘chocolate-like mud’ that covered the victims’ houses actually engulfed an area over a kilometer-long, thus the very big possibility that more houses were buried under 10-15-feet-deep mud.

This was reminiscent of the ‘Yolanda’ devastation in Tacloban City and other parts of Eastern Visayas  where my friend, then Police Regional Office 8 director, now retired Gen. Elmer Soria was relieved after reporting that the death toll may reach 10,000 or more although then DILG Sec. Mar Roxas disagreed with him. The rest is history.

The death toll is rising every hour. On Monday morning, it was placed at 53 but the number rose to 56 early morning yesterday.  Some of the victims also remained unidentified and would require a joint Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory and National Bureau of Investigation Disaster Victim Identification team to find out their real identities thru the help of DNA and forensic science.

I doff my hats to members of the Central Visayas police force headed by Chief Superintendent Debold ‘Dodong’ Sinas, a member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987 who have been working round-the-clock since last week to rescue and retrieve victims in the site. Our cops out there are being helped by different law enforcement agencies and the local government in the search, rescue, relief and retrieval operations.

I join PNP chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde and the rest of the force in praying that more victims would be recovered alive in the area too. But sad to say, only 10 have been found alive in the area over the past five days, the latest of them one Geraldine Lapitan.

There have been calls too for President Duterte to order a no-nonsense investigation into what really caused the tragedy. Many have told me that the blame lies on officials of the LGU, the DENR, Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences who allowed quarrying operations in the area.

While I was writing this piece, I heard that local residents were readying to protest the alleged quarrying operations of Apo Land Quarry Corporation, the company they are blaming for the tragedy. The protesters planned to stage a protest march against mining from Naga City up to the Cebu provincial capitol. Hope that more heads will roll as a result of the tragedy.

CONGRATS TO OUR NEW POLICE GENERALS

On a personal note, my family and I would like to congratulate the country’s newest police generals led by my friends, newly-minted Police Chief Superintendents Bong Durana and Joel Balba.  The others are Chief Supts. Jun Azurin, Gerry Galvan, Chiqui Malayo, Madid Paitao and Mario Rariza.

Durana, currently the PNP spokesman and chief of the PNP Public Information Office and Balba, the Eastern Police District Director are members of Philippine Military Academy Class 1988.  The two are friends way back the 90s.  The Godly Durana is a seasoned police officer who have shone here and abroad- to be exact in his United Nations missions.

Balba is an unassuming officer from the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force who used to visit me in my house in Antipolo City when he was still the Rizal Police Provincial Office director. We also played good basketball in the past.

Azurin, the Executive Officer of the PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management and Malayo, the Executive Officer of the PNP Directorate for Human Resource and Doctrine Development belong to PMA Class 1989. Azurin is a long-time friend, way back when he was still with the PNP Highway Patrol Group while Malayo is a basketball teammate from the PNP Executive Team who used to head the PNP Counter-Intelligence Task Force.

Rariza, a member of PNP Academy Class 1988 is the Executive Officer of the PNP Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Southern Luzon while Galvan of PNPA Class 1987 is with the PNP Internal Affairs Service.  I remember Rariza as a no-nonsense Pasig City police chief who would later become one of Metrobank’s Outstanding Policemen in Service.

Paitao, a Reserve Officer who joined the defunct Philippine Constabulary in 1988 is the Deputy Regional Director for Administration of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Congratulations to all and may the Good Lord bless you in your future endeavors.