M/V Princess of the Stars Tragedy: Interpol team back in Cebu to identify skeletal remains

07/20/2010 - CEBU, Philippines – The International Criminal Police Organization is back in Cebu to identify the skeletal remains of the victims recently retrieved from the sunken M/V Princess of the Stars.

But the Interpol cannot do the procedure just yet because of the “internal political issue” that is preventing its members from doing their job, said Interpol general secretariat Olaf Worbs.

There were 13 skulls currently in possession of the Philippine Coast Guard in Sibuyan Island, Romblon. However, the coast guard is in quandary where to turn over the skeletal remains.

Sulpicio Lines Incorporated vice president Ryan Go said that the Interpol is being prevented by the Public Attorney’s Office from taking the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) because the latter has already taken over the identification of unidentified cadavers last year.

PAO was ordered by the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 in Cebu City in July 14 last year to exhume the 38 unidentified bodies buried in Carreta Cemetery and the rest buried in other islands for identification.

The order was made in favor of the Motion for Exhumation filed by relatives of the victims who filed the petition on June 25 last year claiming their rights to know the fate of their loved ones through all possible means of identifying the cadavers other than the DNA testing.

But SLI last month filed a motion questioning the actions of PAO in taking custody of the remains and questioning the capability of PAO to identify the bodies.

PAO, through its volunteer experts, used the anthropological and dental means of identification which are detailed examination and analysis of bones and dental makeup of the cadavers.

PAO officials said that through anthropological identification, commonly used by international identification experts during mass disasters, the approximate age, gender or sex, height or statue and weight of the person, bone structure and paroxysms when he or she was still alive could be determined.

“No decision yet in the court who will take hold of the identification. Since MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority) was the head of the task force, they are making an appeal that they should be the one to continue the identification,” Go said.

Worbs said that the Interpol is now in the country to assess when they could start taking DNA samples from the retrieved remains.

“We are trying to find out what we can do to finally give closure to the families. We will wait for the decision before we can finally keep on working,” Worbs said.

“I understand that there are different opinions here and elsewhere that identification can be done through other means but once again there is no alternative to what we’ve done. There’s no alternative to DNA testing,” he added.

Worbs said that the Interpol is committed to work on the identification of up to the last body to be recovered. (THE FREEMAN)

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