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Kin of ‘Princess’ victims urged to submit DNA samples

August 29, 2008 3:33pm
MANILA, Philippines — An officials of the International Police (Interpol) on Friday urged relatives of dead victims of the sunken MV “Princess of the Stars" to submit DNA samples to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) if they have not yet done so.

Interpol Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble made the suggestion as he and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Nestor Mantaring met to discuss ways to ensure that the identification of the victims of ferry tragedy would continue “to move as swiftly, efficiently and effectively as possible."

During a press conference at the NBI main office in Manila, Noble said that 312 bodies have been recovered so far and have become part of Interpol’s DNA assisted identification process. .

About 800 passengers and crew are believed to have perished in the tragedy, which happened off Romblon Island in the central Philippines on June 21 at the height of typhoon “Frank."

The Board of Marine Inquiry’s (BMI) has recommended the suspension of the franchise of the sunken ship’s owner, Sulpicio Lines Inc., which it found to have been negligent in ensuring the safety of its passengers. The finding is still on appeal.

A team of forensic experts from the NBI had been working with the Interpol and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in the identification process, using sophisticated DNA analysis.

DNA samples from relatives will be matched with samples taken from the recovered bodies to identify the bodies.

“The first 10 victims whose identities were confirmed by the NBI chaired Identification Board using DNA occurred less than two weeks ago and that time both the NBI and the Interpol set as a goal the identification of at least 10 victims per week. I am happy to announce that we have now identified 35 victims using DNA and have thus met our target," said Mantaring.

“Though the loss of a loved one can never be replaced, the families of the victims should take great comfort in the fact that the system put in place and the dedicated team of colleagues from the NBI, Interpol and ICMP working in Cebu City are meeting our highest expectations," Mantaring added.

Mantaring and Noble recognized how important continuity of leadership would be in order for the maximum number of victims to be identified on a regular basis.

They said their current team leaders, Dr. Renato Bautista for the NBI and Nimal Mahagamage for Interpol, would remain in Cebu City until their work is done.

“Making Dr. Bautista and Mr. Mahagamage permanent heads of our respective units demonstrates our joint commitment to doing all in our power to ensure the swift, efficient and dignified identification of the victims of this very unfortunate tragedy," said Noble.

Apart from the ferry tragedy, Noble was given a detailed briefing on the important anti-crime efforts under the NBI’s responsibility. He also met with the bureaus deputy directors and other senior officials.

Noble said the Interpol is glad to help with the DNA-assisted identification process not only because the Philippines is a member country of the Interpol but also for the country’s willingness to help other countries in times of similar natural disasters.

“During the tsunami in Thailand, the Interpol extended technical help in the identification of the bodies through DNA test and Dr. Bautista and his team from the NBI were also there to extend help. So when the time the NBI needs help for the typhoon Frank ferry disaster, the Interpol decided to be part of this effort," said Noble.

Mantaring added that the Interpol would donate the mobile labs which the Interpol teams have been using in Cebu for the DNA tests “The mobile labs and all equipment which the Interpol teams have been using for the DNA test until the time when the capsized Princess of the Stars to be re-floated will be donated to the NBI," he said.

Salvage firm Titan and its local counterpart Harbor Star are expected to begin work to refloat the ship next week. - GMANews.TV
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