By: Nestle L. Semilla and Rosalie O. Abatayo September 30,2018 - 10:51 PM

FAREWELL. Relatives and friends gather around the caskets of the Versales siblings Bianca, 19, and Michael, 16, adorned with purple balloons and stuffed toys. The siblings are among 15 persons buried on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in a mass burial for the victims of the Barangay Tinaan, Naga City landslide. CDN photo/ Christian Maningo


Twelve days after the landslide incident in Naga City, Cebu, authorities have still to identify at least 36 bodies of the 77 fatalities of the tragedy.
Because of this, the forensic team of the National

Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) will now start getting deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) samples from the still unidentified cadavers.

Dr. Rene Cam, NBI-7 medico-legal officer, said they would now start to collect DNA samples from the cadavers and from persons who have reported missing relatives.

Cam yesterday told Cebu Daily News that the bodies are now beyond recognition and DNA tests are their last option to identify these bodies, especially since there are cadavers with only body parts retrieved.

There is only one problem: DNA tests are expensive.

Cam said at least P1 million will be needed to undertake the DNA tests; money that NBI-7 does not have.

Cam said the NBI national office has a budget for DNA testing but he was unsure if it would be enough to cover for the cost to test the unidentified cadavers recovered from Sitio Sindulan of Barangay Tinaan, the ground zero of the massive landslide that hit Naga City on September 20.

NBI-7 will how have to ask the national government to fund the DNA testing on Naga landslide victims when they start to run short of funds, Cam said.

“Because this is a disaster maybe the bureau can ask help from the national government,” said Cam.

According to Cam, “every 50 samples nga mo undergo og DNA test ang pinakagamay nga costing is P1 million. Pinaka gamay pa na (Every 50 samples that will undergo DNA test, the cost is at least P1 million. That is the minimum cost).”

There were 60 bodies and body parts that were turned over to NBI-7 for forensic examination since September 25, or five days after the landslide and when the search and recovery teams began extracting remains that were no longer recognizable. Of the 60, Cam said 38 were full bodies and 22 were only body parts.

The forensic team, however, were only able to identify 24 bodies.

“Sagaran nahibilin puros na body parts. Naa tay 22 ka body parts and 14 full bodies,” he said.

(Most of the still unidentified cadavers are body parts. We have 22 body parts and 14 full bodies yet to be identified)

Cam said the funding requirement for the DNA testing could still increase considering that they would have to get samples from at least three to seven possible living family members or relatives of these cadavers.

He added that the number of unidentified bodies might also increase as there are still missing persons believed to have remained buried at ground zero.

Body count

As of 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30, there were already 77 full body cadavers and 16 body parts that were retrieved, while there were still eight persons missing.

Cam said they will start the DNA testing once the search and retrieval operation has ended.

“Wala pa tay nagasto as of now. Kay magsugod ra atong DNA tests once mahuman na ang retrieval operation.

(We are not going to spend anything right now. We will start needing the funds for DNA tests once the retrieval operation has been completed)
Meanwhile, Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), yesterday said they would be willing to assist NBI-7 in the DNA testing process.

“We will support the NBI,” said Sinas in a text message when sought for comment by CDN.

Burial rites

Meanwhile, purple, white and blue balloons marked the send off of another 15 persons who perished in the Naga City landslide.

They were laid to rest at the City of Naga Public Cemetery in Barangay Naalad after the Requiem Mass held at the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis de Assisi in Barangay Poblacion at around 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 30.

Among those who were laid to rest were Bianca Versales, 19, and her brother Michael, 16.

“We will miss you, Bianca and Michael!” were written on the balloons that were let loose in the air as cries of grief from the bereaved families and friends echoed in the cemetery.

Teddy bears, balloons and letters of love were placed inside the niches of the siblings as their friends bade them farewell.

The siblings were buried inside “apartment type” niches with 13 other victims of the killer landslide that wiped out most of Sitios Tagaytay and Sindulan in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City last September 20.

The other persons who were buried on Sunday were Laureen Capoy, Theresa Shyne Capoy, Christopher Jhon Lagapa, Victoriano Abalo, Ma. Felipa Bacla-an, Cheryl Pansoy, James Kyle Pansoy, Chede Pansoy, Olivia Santillan, Siena Mayviel Yapac, Edgardo Yapac Jr., Vince Abanda and Felipe Dejillas.

Dejillas survived the landslide but died after suffering from cardiac arrest believed to have been caused by his grief over losing at least 15 members of his clan from the Campanilla side of his family.

Sunday’s burial was the third mass burial held for the victims of the landslide in Barangay Tinaan.

As of Sunday, 39 bodies were already buried at the City of Naga Public Cemetery.

Retrieval operation suspended

The search and retrieval operations for the remaining missing persons was meanwhile halted at about 4 p.m. on Sunday because of heavy downpour.

Baltazar Tribunalo, chief of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO and ground commander of the search and retrieval operation, earlier committed to complete their operations in ground zero this weekend.

However, the operations have been halted for a number of times this week due to the weather.

Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong, in previous interviews, has said that the operations would continue until all persons reported missing would be accounted for.

On Sunday morning, Rev. Fr. Pacifico Nohara Jr, OSA, the rector of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño (BMSN), visited the 417 families from Barangay Mainit who were evacuated to the Naga Central Elementary School.

With the BMSN delegation was the image of the Holy Child, Señor Sto. Niño, whom the evacuees kissed and prayed unto.

Although most of the evacuees there were not directly affected by the landslide in Barangay Tinaan, Nohara said the residents remained anxious about their homes and belongings that they left behind.

Nohara said the evacuees should “set their worries aside and strengthen their faith in God” in times like this.

Hygiene kits and relief packs were also distributed by the BMSN delegation to the evacuees.

In the afternoon, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Simala Shrine in Lindogon, Sibonga was also brought to the Enan Chiong Activity Center (ECAC), which houses the evacuees from Barangay Tinaan which is directly affected by the slide.

Abelio Mangila, who is known for his religious name Frater Martin Mary, prior superior of the Marian Monks of Eucharistic Adoration (MMEA) — the founder and caretakers of Our Lady of Lindogon Shrine, led the devotional and healing prayer for the evacuees.

“Even if we do not have physical illnesses, we need healing from the pain that was brought by the loss of loved ones during this tragedy,” Frater Martin told the evacuees.

Frater Martin also told the evacuees to celebrate life and pray for the eternal repose of those who died in the landslide.

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TAGS: DNA, Fresh, Funds, NBI-7, needs, testing

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