Cadavers moved out of CDO dumpsite but Robredo says “no dumping of bodies”

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/22 December) —  The corpses of Sendong victims that were dumped in the city’s landfill in Cagayan de Oro City were transferred to a hangar in Lumbia airport on Wednesday upon orders of  Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo but he maintained there was “no dumping of bodies.”

“Wala namang dumping of the bodies” (there was no dumping of bodies),  Robredo said as he was moving out of the ARMM Conference Hall on Thursday noon.

A wall of tarpauline now hides the bodies at the sanitary landfill in Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. Officials decided to transfer anew the dead bodies to the Napocor hangar at the Lumbia Airport following a public outcry early this week. The transfer was made after NBI medico legal experts took DNA samplings on the bodies. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo“How do you call that?” MindaNews asked, to which Robredo answered, “Anong definition mo ng dumping?” (What is your definition of dumping?)

Aghast at the Secretary’s answer, MindaNews replied, “We were there, Sir!”

“Sa akin lang, if you have evidence to show, we can investigate,” Robredo said.

“We will send you photos and video, Sir,” MindaNews said.

Robredo said that when they received the report about dumped bodies, “we investigated.”

Later in a text message to MindaNews, he said, “according to Congressman Rufus (Rodriguez), , the area is near dumpsite. Bodies were taken there for ID, DNA and for clean up. No burial on that site.  Then they were transferred to the hangar at Lumbia airport after space was made available. Same report from PNP (Philippine National Police).”

The area where the bodies were dumped was not “near dumpsite” but in the dumpsite itself.

Relatives in search of their missing loved ones had to walk (if they had no vehicle) 800 meters past the mountains of trash to where the cadavers were dumped, and fight nausea from the stench.

This was certainly no place to “clean up” the dead or to bring relatives to identify their dead.

“I understand your concern Carol. That’s the reason why we investigated and asked that bodies be moved somewhere else,” Robredo said in another text message.

MindaNews visited the dumpsite in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro at noon December 19 to check on reports from a conference in City Hall that decomposing bodies were brought there Sunday because “baho na daw kaayo ug namboto na ubn” (they said the smell is intolerable and the bodies had decomposed).

Relatives of missing residents of Cagayan de Oro view the bodies that were transferred from Bollozos Funeral Parlor in Barangay Bulua to the garbage landfill in Barangay Carmen on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. The city government ordered their transfer Monday after the morgues were swamped with bodies killed by Tropical Storm Sendong. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

A worker at the gate said about 30  bodies were brought there Sunday evening. Relatives waiting nearby said they could not understand why the bodies were brought to the landfill.

MindaNews returned at 11:30 p.m.  and learned 49 more bodies were brought there, 15 from the Bollozos Funeral Homes and 34 newly-retrieved bodies.

On December 21, ABC 5’s reported that President Aquino, who apparently was caught unaware when asked about the dumping of the cadavers at the Cagayan de Oro City landfill, said government officials who ordered the dumping of bodies there should be held criminally liable.

Aquino, who visited the city on December 20, said this was not only illegal but also a health hazard.

“Excuse me. I don’t think there is any plan to put … and no authority to put anybody … I don’t know where you got that from and I don’t know where these reports are coming from,” quoted Aquino as saying.

“That is not authorized by any of our laws … I really don’t know where you got that from, but if anybody ever does that and put these deceased in a landfill, they will have to answer before the law,” he added.

The same report said Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano had admitted ordering the bodies be taken to the landfill, claiming he had “no choice” after owners of  funeral parlors stopped accepting cadavers because they were running out of formalin and were still without water.

Emano’s move was widely criticized for being “inhuman,” among others.

On Wednesday, the cadavers dumped at the landfill were placed in body bags and boarded on Army trucks to transfer them to the  Napocor hangar at the Lumbia Airport following a public outcry early this week over the dumping. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)