No body found after 15 days; search to terminate on Friday
After 15 days of intensively searching the seas for the body of Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Boniel, the search and retrieval team is about to give up and has decided to terminate its operation at the end of the week, whether or not they find the body.
“Kinse ka adlaw na ni namo gi-dive pero wala g’yud ta’y nakit-an. Daku g’yud ang posibilidad nga naa g’yud to sa lawom kaayo nahulog,” said Senior Supt. Rommel Cabagnot, Lapu-Lapu City Police Director, who supervised the search and retrieval operations.
(We have been diving for 15 days but found nothing. It is possible that she fell very deep into the sea).
Lead diver, Mabolo Police Station Commander, Chief Insp. Jacinto Mandal has recommended the termination of the search, which Cabagnot supports. Cabagnot said they will continue the dive until all their supplies are depleted, or until the end of the week.
Despite the failure of the authorities to retrieve Gisela’s body, Police Regional Director, Chief Supt. Noli Taliño challenged lawyers of Bohol Provincial Board Member Niño Rey Boniel to prove that she is alive. Niño is the primary suspect in the alleged killing of his wife Gisela and faces a complaint for parricide before the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office.
Taliño’s challenge came as Niño’s lawyers said the burden of proof that Gisela was killed is on the police.
“Sino ba ang magpapatunay na buhay si Mayor Boniel? Hindi sa amin manggagaling ‘yun (Who should prove that Mayor Boniel is alive? That will not come from us), ” Taliño said.
He said it was Niño himself who told him about what happened between him and his wife.
“Informal talks yun. Nag-uusap kami (with Niño). Very spontaneous naman si board member at siya yung nagsasabi sa akin na may nangyari kay Mayor Boniel ( We had informal talks and he was very spontaneous and it was he who said something really happened to Mayor Boniel),” Taliño said.
Meanwhile, Niño’s lawyers are readying for the trial of the parricide case against their client, saying they do not expect the prosecutors to dismiss the complaint.
“Even how good the board member’s counter-affidavit was, we don’t expect the prosecutors to dismiss the case,” said lawyer Inocencio De La Cerna Jr., one of Niño’s six lawyers.
“In my long years of prosecution and litigation, it’s unlikely that the prosecutors will dismiss the case because first of all, their task is only to find probable cause,” he added.
The three-man panel of prosecutors in Lapu-Lapu City is expected to release within the week its resolution on the parricide complaint filed against
Niño and four other respondents who were arrested by the police in relation to the alleged death of Gisela .
Although their chances of getting a dismissal at the prosecutor’s office are slim, De La Cerna believes the case against Niño will not prosper in court.
Without Gisela’s dead body, the veteran lawyer said there is no proof that the mayor is dead.
“If Mayor Boniel will not surface, it will create doubts as to whether a crime really transpired. Remember that accusation is not equivalent to proof.
And if there are witnesses, they will be tested, not in the media, but in the crucible of truth and the bar of justice,” De La Cerna said.
The four other respondents who remain at large will undergo the regular preliminary investigation which would take a longer time to resolve.
During the 888 News Forum yesterday, Niño’s lawyers released an official statement on the plan of the police to end the search and retrieval operations, saying the board member had mixed feelings.
“As the Philippine National Police declared that it will officially end the search regarding the whereabouts of Mayor Gisela Boniel, the board member and the other respondents have mixed feelings of frustration and distress,” the statement read.
“On one hand, the board member is most concerned if indeed his wife will ever be found. Her being missing continues to be a sword of Damocles in the search for justice, not only for himself but more importantly for his wife.”
Niño’s lawyers De La Cerna and Gerardo Carillo and Lawyer Ehden Ferrera of the PRO-7 faced off during the 888 News Forum at the Marco Polo Hotel yesterday.
“We’re also ready for trial. Rest assured, we will make sure that justice will be done. We’re prepared wherever this case will bring us,” said lawyer Ferrera, confident that the evidence they gathered will be enough to prove Niño’s guilt.
He said even without Gisela’s dead body, they have other proof that the mayor was killed by Niño.
The police are banking on the testimonies of at least four witnesses, three of whom worked with Niño.
One of the witnesses, Niño’s cousin Reolito Boniel, said he was operating the pump boat where the board member shot Gisela in the head before throwing the body into the sea.
But Carillo said the evidence of the police cannot stand the continued failure of authorities to find Gisela’s body.
In his counter-affidavit, Niño raised the possibility that Gisela hid herself since she had huge debts.
“Mayor Boniel’s body is not there. There hasn’t been proof that she is dead. Also, the gun which was allegedly used in the crime is not there, and Board Member Boniel tested negative of gunpowder residue on his hands,” Carillo said.
“Let us see how things go in court. As I have said, the real battle is in the court. Let us see the scatter in court,” he quipped.
Carillo appealed to the public not to immediately judge Niño who, at this point, should be presumed innocent.
“Give him the chance to prove his innocence. Let the courts decide,” he said.
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