No Deaths, Only Injuries: Checking the “Zero-Casualty” Claim
Screen grab from GMA News official YouTube channel
“VERY MINIMAL, hindi na namin actually pinresent kasi wala naman tayong casualty.” This was how Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa described stray bullet incidents during the New Year’s day celebrations.
During the PNP press briefing on “Ligtas Paskuhan 2017” held in the morning of January 2, Dela Rosa announced that the police recorded no casualty on stray bullet incidents. He also noted the Department of Health (DOH) record of a 68 percent decrease in “firecracker injuries.” When the police chief repeated this figure, he referred to it as “firecracker casualty.”
The media carried the “zero-casualty” achievement of the police in their reports, but did not clarify whether the police meant “casualty” as fatal, nonfatal or both. The Oxford English Dictionary defines this term as “a person killed or injured in a war or accident.” It is important for the media to clarify the use of the term.
Obviously, General Bato was using casualty to refer to incidence of fatality when speaking about the victims of stray bullets; and then shifted to injury when he referred to victims of firecrackers.
CMFR cheers Malaya for the clarification when he reported on January 8: “Two persons were hit by stray bullets during the New Year revelry, contrary to what the PNP initially claimed as “zero casualty.” (“Oops, 2 persons hit by stray bullets last Jan. 1“)
Malaya referred to the report of PNP Regional Office VI (Western Visayas) that Nolie Ursua of Aklan was sleeping in her house when a stray bullet wounded her on the thigh. Meanwhile, a bullet slug landed on the arm of Jerry Taculod of Misamis Oriental (Region X, Northern Mindanao), after it went through the roof and ceiling of Taculod’s house. Taculod did not sustain any injury.
In its report, Malaya said: “The PNP Directorate for Operations said the reports were received late by the national headquarters.”
Cheers also to the Manila Bulletin which clarified the number of victims of indiscriminate firing of guns during the holidays. In an online report last January 2, the Bulletin referred to Dela Rosa’s statement in a January 1 Balitanghali interview: No casualty has been recorded from indiscriminate firing, since the reported case of two children who were hit by bullets in Caloocan City was a result of a shooting incident between two quarreling neighbors.
But the Bulletin added: “A case in Taguig City involving a retired soldier and a member of the Army’s elite force may spoil the zero-casualty declaration of Dela Rosa” (“Dela Rosa: Zero casualty from indiscriminate firing during 2017 New Year revelry“). The victim, Jolly Moreno, was watching a fireworks display when one of the bullets that retired Staff Sergeant Jamael Mindalano and Corporal Richard Quijano fired ricocheted and grazed Moreno. Both were arrested for indiscriminate firing.
Malaya and Bulletin did well in checking the accuracy of police figures and claims, which don’t usually get challenged by reporters. Other news organizations would do well to share the same practice.
CMFR also prescribes the value of precision in the use of words, making sure we get the meaning of claims and statements, making clear for our readers what is said more casually by government officials.