Thursday, 21 November 2013

Interpol forensic team to help identify cadavers in Tacloban

A team of forensic experts from the International Police (Interpol) is set to fly to the typhoon-battered Tacloban City this weekend to help local authorities in identifying the decomposing bodies of those who were killed at the height of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has met with the Interpol’s disaster victim identification (DVI) team, which will help the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) forensic team identify thousands of collected cadavers.

The Interpol team has experts from Canada, United Kingdom, Cameron, Jordan, Bosnia and South Africa.

“They said they’re willing to help and they’re willing to extend assistance and give advice to the whole process of DVI. This weekend, they will go to Tacloban City to make an initial assessment so that they will be able to craft or formulate proposals on how to go about the DVI given the magnitude of the casualties,” Sec. de Lima told reporters after her meeting with the Interpol team.

“That’s the initial team and depending on the exact process, I think more experts from the Interpol will fly to the country,” she said.

De Lima believed that Interpol’s assistance in the DVI operations would be very helpful, citing the same help extended by the international body during the “Princess of the Star” tragedy off Romblon in June 2008.

She also said that the integrity of the whole process of identifying the casualties will be ensured with the help of the foreign forensics experts.

“They (Interpol) explained that identifying the corpses is a tedious process. You don’t determine the identity of the dead bodies on the basis of their shirt or their belongings. So what is needed here, according to the Interpol, is a scientific process of identifying the bodies, like DNA testing,” the Justice Secretary explained.

“It will add further to the anguish of the family if you give them the wrong cadaver,” she said.

The first batch of 15 to 20 NBI forensic experts flew to Tacloban Tuesday last week. A second batch followed over the weekend.

De Lima revealed that the NBI forensic team is planning to set up apartment-type tombs to be able to identify an initial batch of 700 collected cadavers.

She said the ideal setup – as agreed upon by the Department of Health and volunteer private pathologists – is to put 10 to 20 corpses in a tomb.

De Lima has traveled to Leyte to supervise the forensic identification of the victims. The NBI had already appealed to the government for additional funds for the DVI since the NBI would need to spend about P15,000 to P20,000 per “specimen” or body.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) admitted that it will be difficult to reconstitute the records of pending cases in courts that have been pummelled by super typhoon Yolanda.

“Our chance is to be able to reconstitute the records of the cases from the parties but that too will be difficult,” Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said.

The prosecutors’ office is housed at the Bulwagan ng Katarungan Compound in Tacloban, Leyte. Arellano said, a staff and wife of a prosecutor were reported to be among the typhoon fatalities.

The Office of the Prosecutors will resume work on Monday.

“We are preparing to send typewriters and other supplies to them,” Chief Prosecutors Association (CIPROSA) head and Manila Chief Prosecutor Edward Togonon said.

Thursday 21 November 2013


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