Burial numbers in Jakarta indicate coronavirus toll is higher than officially reported

Workers move a coffin of a victim of the coronavirus to a burial site at a cemetery in Jakarta on April 15, 2020. Jakarta is the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous country. (AFP)
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Updated 01 May 2020

Burial numbers in Jakarta indicate coronavirus toll is higher than officially reported

  • Jakarta is the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous country

JAKARTA: Burials in Jakarta remained close to record highs in April, official data showed on Friday, indicating there may have been many more deaths from COVID-19 in the city than have been officially recorded.
The 4,377 burials, combined with 4,422 burials in March, indicate that 2,500 more people have died in the city in the past two months than the average for the period.
The burials data, from the website of the city’s parks and cemeteries department, does not identify the cause of death.
Jakarta is the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous country. According to the central government, there had been 375 COVID-19 deaths in the capital as of Saturday.
Overall, Indonesia has had 800 deaths from the disease, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said on Friday.
Asked about the Jakarta burial figures, Yurianto said that official figures for coronavirus deaths included only those who died after testing positive for the disease.
Some people who died with COVID-19 symptoms were not tested at all, while others had their samples collected “incorrectly,” Yurianto said. He did not elaborate on what the incorrect samples meant.
The March burial figure for Jakarta was the highest since such data began being collected a decade ago, nearly one third higher than any month in that period. City Governor Anies Baswedan said at the time: “I’m struggling to find another reason than unreported COVID-19 deaths.”
Baswedan could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
The April burials figure fell only slightly although many people left the city for their home villages in the first three weeks of the month.
A spokesman for the Jakarta provincial government declined to answer questions about the burials data and the number of people who had left the city.
“We don’t have daily data to get a precise trend. However, deducting for out-migration, it’s not slowing down yet,” said one Jakarta-based epidemiologist, who asked not to be identified.
Authorities introduced a soft lockdown on Jakarta in March, closing schools and some businesses. On April 24 travel out of the city was strictly banned in an effort to stop more people leaving for the annual post-Ramadan exodus from Greater Jakarta.
Indonesia has had 10,551 confirmed cases of the illness, the Health Ministry’s Yurianto said on Friday.
A Reuters review of data from 16 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces showed this week that more than 2,200 people have died with acute symptoms of COVID-19 but were not recorded as victims of the disease.


Duterte: Hold me responsible for killings in Philippines’ drug crackdown

Updated 20 October 2020

Duterte: Hold me responsible for killings in Philippines’ drug crackdown

  • ‘If there’s killing there, I’m saying I’m the one ... you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war’

MANILA: The Philippine president has said he accepts responsibility for the thousands of killings committed during police operations in his crackdown on drugs, adding that he was even ready to go to jail.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s televised remarks Monday night were typical of his bluster — and tempered by the fact that he has pulled his country out of the International Criminal Court, where a prosecutor is considering complaints related to the leader’s bloody campaign.
The remarks were also a clear acknowledgement that Duterte could face a deluge of criminal charges. Nearly 6,000 killings of drug suspects have been reported by police since he took office in mid-2016, but rights watchdogs suspect the death toll is far larger.
“If there’s killing there, I’m saying I’m the one ... you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war,” Duterte said.
“If you get killed, it’s because I’m enraged by drugs,” said the president known for his coarse and boastful rhetoric. “If I serve my country by going to jail, gladly.”
He said, however, that drug killings that did not happen during police operations should not be blamed on him, alleging that those may have been committed by gangs.
Duterte has made a crackdown on drugs a centerpiece of his presidency. At the height of the campaign — which has often targeted petty dealers and users along with a handful of the biggest druglords — images of suspects sprawled dead and bloodied in the streets were frequently broadcast in TV news reports and splashed on the front pages of newspapers. Tens of thousands of arrests in the initial years of the crackdown worsened congestion in what were already among the world’s most overcrowded jails.
UN human rights experts and Western governments led by the United States have raised alarm over the killings, enraging Duterte, who once told former US President Barack Obama to “go to hell.”
There have been widespread suspicions that police engage in extrajudicial killings in the crackdown, allegations that they and Duterte deny. In 2018, a court convicted three police officers of murdering a 17-year-old student after witnesses and a security video disproved their claim that the suspect was shot after violently resisting, a common reason cited by police officers after drug suspects are killed.
At least two complaints for crimes against humanity and mass murder in connection with Duterte’s campaign are being examined by an ICC prosecutor, who will determine whether there is enough evidence to open a full-scale investigation.
When the complaints were made, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the world tribunal two years ago in a move that human rights groups said was a major setback in the country’s battle against impunity. The ICC prosecutor has said the examination into the drug killings would continue despite the Philippine withdrawal.
Duterte reiterated his defiance of the court’s probe Monday by asking, when did “drugs become humanity?”
Instead, he framed the drug menace as a national security threat, as he has in the past, comparing it to the communist insurgency that the government has tried to quell for more than a half-century.
“If this is allowed to go on and on and if no decisive action is taken against them, it will endanger the security of the state,” said Duterte, a former government prosecutor.
“When you save your country from the perdition of the people like the NPAs and drugs, you are doing a sacred duty,” he said, referring to communist New People’s Army insurgents.
Police have reported at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since the start of the crackdown. Human rights groups have accused authorities of considerably under reporting the deaths.