By: Ador Vincent Mayol June 28,2017 - 11:56 PM

ONE LAST TIME. Volunteer divers take one last plunge into the sea of Caubian Island off Mactan Island in an attempt to find the body of Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel of Bien Unido, Bohol, on June 27, 2017.

Friends and relatives of Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel appeal to authorities to keep the search going and give them closure

As of noon yesterday, the search for the remains of Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel officially ended, two days ahead of the scheduled termination date and amid calls from her kin and friends to keep the search going.

The search was supposed to terminate on Friday. But divers, after assessing last Tuesday’s dive, yesterday recommended to stop the search and retrieval operations for the mayor’s body since it was no longer humanly possible for divers to go down beyond the depth of 200 feet, according to

Senior Insp. Reslyn Abella, spokesperson of Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).

However, Gisela’s family and friends appealed to PRO-7 not to wind up efforts to locate the slain local executive.

Lawyer Lane Pangilinan, the counsel of Gisela’s best friend Angela Gamalinda-Leyson, urged authorities to never give up hope in finding the mayor’s body.

While Pangilinan believed that producing Gisela’s body will not be necessary in securing a conviction of the perpetrators, she said there is a need to retrieve her remains to put an end to allegations that she could still be alive and in hiding and to give her a proper burial.

“Human body is sacred. Hindi yan basta na lang iiwanan kahit saan. Tinapon na nga siya. Kahit naman lang makuha namin ang kanyang katawan upang mabigyan ng karangalan (We just could not leave the body anywhere. She was dumped. We want to recover the body so that at the very least, we can honor her),” she told Cebu Daily News yesterday.

“We want closure and relief amid all issues. We want to properly lay her to rest. And so I really hope they will not end the search here,” the Manila-based lawyer added.

In his counter-affidavit submitted to the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office, Bohol Provincial Board Member Niño Rey Boñiel, the mayor’s husband and the prime suspect in her disappearance and presumed death, claimed that Gisela is alive and that there is a possibility that her wife simply hid herself to escape from her “millions of debts.”

Limited search possible

Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, reached for comment yesterday, said he will ask Senior Supt. Rommel Cabagnot, the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office director and head of the search and retrieval operation, if it is possible not to completely end the retrieval operations.

“Gusto din namin ituloy ang search and give a descent burial kay mayor (We also want to continue the search and give a descent burial to the mayor),” said Taliño, director of PRO-7.

“I will direct Senior Supt. Cabagnot to reorganize and request some volunteer divers to conduct even limited but sustained searches even in the shores in the hope that they will really find the body,” he added in a text message to Cebu Daily News.

Cabagnot last week recommended to stop efforts to locate Gisela’s body but agreed to continue to search but only until Friday, whether or not the body is found.

Since June 8, or a day after she was reported to have been killed and her body dumped in the sea between Bohol and Cebu, divers scoured the seas near Caubian Island in Lapu-Lapu City.

The area was pointed to by a suspect-turned-witness, Reolito “Etad” Boniel, as the place where the body of Gisela was reportedly dumped after she was allegedly shot in the head by her husband at dawn of June 7.

However, authorities failed to find her.

Not entirely worthless

Abella said it has become extremely difficult for divers to keep the search as they did not have the underwater equipment needed to locate the body at a depth beyond 200 feet.

But Abella said their efforts to locate Gisela were not worthless as they found a blanket believed to be the same cloth that was used in wrapping the mayor’s body when she was carried semiconscious allegedly by Niño’s cohorts from the Bien Unido Double Barrier Dive Resort to the pump boat driven by Reolito that was used to transport her to the sea.

According to Abella, the blanket has been submitted to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory for forensic examination.

“We really did our best to recover Mayor Boniel’s body. But for now, the divers have decided to stop the search and retrieval operations,” she said.

But with or without Gisela’s body, the police and their lawyers are confident that they can prove the guilt of Niño and the other respondents based on circumstantial evidence, particularly the testimonies of the witnesses.

A parricide complaint was filed against Niño at the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office.

Impleaded in the case were Niño’s cousin Reolito, driver Randel Lupas, Wilfredo Hoylar, Restituto Magoncia Jr., Lubo Boniel, Allan delos Reyes Jr., Wilson Hoylar and Brian Boniel Saycon.

Of the eight, only four have been arrested with Niño: Reolito, Lupas, Wilfredo and Magoncia.

The panel of prosecutors in Lapu-Lapu City has yet to release its resolution on the parricide case.

Reolito and Lupas have been endorsed by the police as state witnesses after they pointed to Niño as the one who killed Gisela and threw the body into the water between Bien Unido in Bohol and Caubian Island in Lapu-Lapu City.

Like Reolito and Lupas, another driver of Niño, Edgar Tapere, was placed under the custody of the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program.

Tapere has told the police that he was instructed by Niño to fetch him at Punta Engaño in Lapu-Lapu City an hour after Gisela was killed.

Another witness, Gisela’s best friend Angela Leyson, also testified that she and her 17-year-old son were held captive by Niño at the Bien Unido Double Barrier Dive Resort predawn of June 7, or a few hours before Gisela was killed.

She said that she was talking with Gisela in a room at the dive resort when Niño and his companions barged into the room sometime after midnight, or early on June 7.

She said she was tasered by one of the suspects, but before she lost consciousness, she said she saw Niño punch Gisela on the stomach. Leyson and her son, who was in the next room, were held for a few hours before they were driven by Lupas to Tubigon town where they were released.

Leyson and son immediately took a boat to Cebu and upon arriving on Mactan Island, proceeded to report the incident to the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LLCPO), which, in turn, coordinated with PRO-7 and the Bohol police that eventually led to the arrest of Niño and four of his cohorts.

Niño’s arraignment set today

Leyson filed kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges against Niño before the Bohol Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, which has since indicted the Bohol official.

Niño is set to be arraigned today, June 29, before Judge Marivic Trabajo-Daray of the Regional Trial Court Branch 52 in Talibon town, Bohol.

Lawyer Gerardo Carillo, one of Niño’s six lawyers, said they will move for the consolidation of the cases separately filed in Bohol and Lapu-Lapu City.

While the parricide case against Niño is still with the prosecutors in Lapu-Lapu City, the defense lawyers believed they have slim chances of having the complaint dismissed since state lawyers were only directed to determine if there is probable cause or reason to forward the case to the court for a full-blown trial.

Carillo said they were now preparing for the trial proper of the parricide case.

He, however, insisted that if the police want to secure a conviction, they should locate Gisela’s body.

“Mayor Boniel’s body is not here. There hasn’t been a proof that she is dead,” he said.

“They can actually continue the search and retrieval operations if they want, but if the body is not really there, then they would just be wasting their time,” said Carillo, a former Cebu City councilor.

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TAGS: Bien, bohol, Boniel, ends, for, Gisela, mayor, Murder, Nino, Provincial Board Member, search, Unido

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