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PIA Press Release
2007/03/28

Shallow grave yields dead man's bones

By Bong Pedalino

HILONGOS, Leyte (28 March) -- A joint military-police operation conducted in a very distant, interior village here today, Tuesday, March 27, which aimed to unearth the remains of many dead bodies, yielded instead with the recovery of bones lawmen thought belonged only to one person.

Despite the frustrating find, however, the sad tale behind the motive of the purported killing has been all too familiar: the victim, Segundo Balonggo, of Sitio Lemon, barangay San Antonio, this town, was formerly a hard-core communist New People’s Army (NPA) cadre, who had returned to the fold of the law and was believed summarily executed for it in a mass purge about two decades ago carried by the underground movement to rid its ranks of suspected deep penetration agents (DPAs).

This was according to the revelation of the victim’s brother, Dionisio, a 60-something jolly man, who led the authorities to the grave site.

Previous conflicting reports had it that skeletal remains of at least fifteen persons were to be exhumed today at barangay Utanan, another interior barangay of this town, while some military sources also claimed that two grave sites with bone fragments of three persons were to be verified today which, as it turned out, did not happen.

Two helicopters were used to ferry police and military officers, headed by PNP Regional Director Supt. Eliseo De La Paz and MGen. Armando Cunanan of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, respectively, including Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), and some mediamen, from the staging area at the Hilongos National Vocational High School grounds to the site.

The objective was reached after fifteen minutes of helicopter ride and a 30-minute walk from the narrow landing strip following a knee-deep winding river and a rocky climb in a cliff-like terrain.

Lt. Col. Mario Lacurom, Commanding Officer of the 43rd IB based in Hibod-Hibod, Sogod, and his men had reached the area much earlier.

SOCO operatives took blood samples of Dionisio, the informant, to see later if it would match with the DNA of the bones found. They also secured the bones in a box and carried it with them for further investigative analysis.

Dionisio was at first understandably hesitant to be positively identified, but gave in for the sake of his blood brother’s death and in efforts to seek justice.

Reached for comment, Gen. Cunanan declined to give a statement when they came back to the staging area after the operation.

But Police Supt. De La Paz earlier scoffed at insinuations made by left-leaning groups that the bones were “recycled.”

Miraflor Cruz, Special Investigator II of the Commission on Human Rights based in Tacloban City who accompanied the team, also did not make any comment, saying she had to dig deeper still and wait until all available facts can be in before making a conclusion.

In August last year, several skeletons stocked in a mass grave believed victims of purges were discovered in a hinterland barangay in Inopacan town.

The discovery led to the recent arrest of Bayan-Muna Party-List Rep. Satur Ocampo, who was being fingered, along with other top communist leaders, as the one allegedly leading the mass murder, a charge he had denied. (PIA-Southern Leyte) [top]

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