CEBU City, August 14, 2011?Relatives of the casualties, missing and unidentified victims of the 2008 sunken vessel MV “Princess of the Stars”, lauded the Cebu regional trial court for instructing the National Bureau of Investigation to turn over all documents that would help in victim’s identification to the Public Attorney’s Office.
Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras told NBI medico-legal officer Renato Bautista to turn over all documents in his possession to the Public Attorney’s Office under Persida V. Rueda-Acosta during a court hearing in Cebu on August 11.
Judge Peras ordered Bautista to yield the documents to the Court Sheriff Fortunato Torrevillas Viovicente, Jr. in Manila on September 1 for eventual turn-over to the Public Attorney’s Office.
“We are very happy because the court warned the NBI doctor to turn over all the documents in his custody at his office and set the turn-over on September 1 at NBI Manila,” Acosta told CBCPNews after the court hearing.
The PAO central office lawyers accompanying the court sheriff will bring at least three duplicating machines to the NBI.
“Maraming salamat po sa court at kami’y pinagbigyan sa aming kahilingan,” she further said.
Rowena Barret whose brother Armand, then 27 years old has remained missing since June 21, 2008, said she and some 60 other litigants have been waiting for the turn-over since two years ago.
“Hopefully po, kung mai-turn over na ng NBI sa PAO ang mga dokumento tungkol sa kanilang identification, makikilala na rin ang mga biktima,” Barret said. She added there was an earlier turn-over of remains sometime ago but it never had a follow through as Dr. Bautista did not obey the court order for a number of reasons.
She added she and her group never missed court hearings at the Cebu City Regional Trial Court. Asked if her family received some compensation from the shipowners, Barret said there was none.
“Wala po kaming natanggap liban sa P 200,000.00 na mula sa mga pasahero bilang insurance,” she further said.
Barret and her group earlier sought the support of Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma for the resolution of both civil and criminal cases pending in courts in this city and in Metro Manila.
Dr. Bautista has refused to turn-over the documents which he described as voluminous and restricted under an agreement between the National Bureau of Investigation and the Interpol.
An Interpol report said they indeed supported the National Bureau of Investigation in identifying disaster victims. The report said they dispatched an Incident Response Team to this city composed of Disaster Victim Identification and DNA experts.
“These activities included carrying out a complex salvage operation to refloat a commercial ferry and free the trapped bodies, obtaining refrigerated containers so that bodies could be preserved with dignity; setting up mobile forensic labs so that DNA analysis could be carried out efficiently and establishing a Victim Identification Information Center in order to keep grieving relatives and friends informed,” the report said.
The same report revealed the team used “cutting-edge DNA analysis techniques” to identify the victims. They worked with the International Commission on Missing Persons in Sarajevo.
Interpol said they recovered at least 560 bodies, collected some 3,000 DNA samples from the victims and their relatives and “408 victims identified in this way.” Forty-one victims were identified using other traditional methods such as fingerprints and dental records.
Atty. Acosta said they hope to identify more victims should NBI turn over all the documents, DNA samples and other reports to her office soonest. (Melo M. Acuna)