Super Typhoon Yolanda

Marcos resurrects issue of ‘uncounted, unrecorded’ victims of Yolanda

Iya Gozum

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Marcos resurrects issue of ‘uncounted, unrecorded’ victims of Yolanda

HAIYAN. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. leads the official commemoration of one of the world's strongest and deadliest tropical cyclones, Super Typhoon Yolanda, on its 10th year, in Tacloban City, Leyte on November 8, 2023.

Screenshot from RTVM

‘We are certain that there were more but for whatever reason, their deaths have not been recorded,’ Marcos tells the people of Tacloban on the 10th official commemoration of Super Typhoon Yolanda

TACLOBAN, Philippines – Ten years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the country, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. brought back the issue of possible underreporting of the death toll by the administration of the late Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Speaking at the Astrodome here on Wednesday, November 8, Marcos said that after a decade, the nation still doesn’t know its “true scope of loss.”

The President urged the people of Tacloban to remember not only their loved ones, but most especially those who died but were not included in the official death toll of 6,300.

“But we must always keep a special place in our hearts for those who we lost, who are uncounted, who are unrecorded so that up to now, we say 6,000 casualties, we do not know that for sure,“ Marcos said in front of an audience made up mostly of housing beneficiaries.

“We are certain that there were more but for whatever reason, their deaths have not been recorded.”

In the aftermath of the one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history, Marcos had criticized the Aquino administration’s “very little, very late” rehabilitation program for the poor. At the time, Marcos was still senator and in three years would run unsuccessfully for vice president. He has insisted that there were many more victims than the official death toll.

Based on the final report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on the effects of Yolanda signed by its then-executive director, Eduardo del Rosario, a total of 6,300 people were killed, 28,688 injured, and 1,062 missing. Ninety-two percent of the fatalities were in Leyte province. 

Del Rosario in December 2013 denied underreporting the death toll to avoid embarrassing Aquino, saying he was willing to resign if someone could prove it.

In a confirmation hearing in 2020, Del Rosario said the official death toll, which had risen to around 7,500, was based on validation on the ground by local government units (LGUs). He said the NDRRMC requires a formal casualty report signed by the mayor and municipal health officer before it is added to the official count.

Yolanda made landfall in the Philippines on November 8, 2013. The disaster caused by Yolanda put Tacloban and the Philippines on the global spotlight, and intensified the clamor for better disaster preparedness and adaptation in the country.

Before Yolanda happened, the Aquino administration was confronted with the pork barrel scandal involving businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and some politicians.

Man of the hour

In the event, the President was flanked by cousins House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez. Philippine senators Francis Tolentino, Mark Villar, and some Cabinet members were also on stage.

Before Marcos addressed the crowd, an audio-visual presentation was played showing the stories of survivors, Tacloban City at present time, clips and images of the days after Yolanda wrought havoc. The video was interspersed with photos and videos of then-senator Marcos in action.

Even the speeches of the Romualdezes emphasized Marcos’ role in Tacloban’s recovery efforts.

Now sitting as president, Marcos himself admitted that recovery for the people of Tacloban is not yet over.

“But the work is not done,” he said. “There are still many who continue to await our assistance.”

Marcos said the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the National Housing Authority are working to expedite the provision of housing units and awarding of land titles to beneficiaries.

Before leaving the Astrodome, Marcos handed certificates to eight housing beneficiaries in a ceremonial awarding.

Housing and relocation remain challenges 10 years after Yolanda. Some housing sites are still incomplete, while some suffer from lack of potable water and other water utility issues.

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.