Bodies dumped in landfill as funeral homes full

Navy personnel load about 500 coffins on the BRP Dagupan for shipment to the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Tuesday due to arrive there on Christmas Eve.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines - After making the rounds of funeral parlors for three days, college student Christine Dalay's search for her mother finally ended Tuesday-in a garbage dump. There, on top of a heap of garbage, lay the missing 48-year-old woman.

"It's really painful," Dalay said on seeing her mother dumped like garbage in the sanitary landfill. "I took good care of her when she was still alive. I can't go near the bodies because I didn't want to see my mother looking like that."

A Philippine Daily Inquirer check showed there were at least 30 bodies in the dump, exposed to the elements and swarming with flies.

Mayor Vicente Emano has ordered that the bodies which overwhelmed funeral parlours could no longer accept be brought to the landfill. Funeral homes, most of them without water supply and running out of formalin, have complained of the stench from unclaimed bodies.

Emano defended his decision. "There's no other place for them and the funeral homes have declined to keep them," he said.

Emano said the stench of bodies had forced his government to move the corpses away from residential communities. But he explained that the use of the dump was only temporary and that the bodies would be eventually brought to Cagayan de Oro City Memorial Park.

The city government is building a chamber that can accommodate 200 bodies, which will be buried in individual coffins.

Amid the desperate shortage of coffins, the Philippine Navy last night prepared to ship about 500 caskets to storm-ravaged areas in Mindanao, with most of the wooden boxes built in the Pampanga town of Sto. Tomas, the so-called "coffin capital" of Central Luzon.

The coffins were aboard the BRP Dagupan City, a logistics support vessel expected to arrive in Mindanao on Christmas Eve.

Coffinmakers in Sto. Tomas worked through the night to build the needed coffins, which were made of plywood and painted in white, according to Mayor Joselito Naguit.

Relatives outraged

The landfill was also the place where election paraphernalia were recovered during the May 2010 elections in which Emano was declared the mayoralty winner.

The dumping of the bodies there provoked outrage among families and friends of those still missing.

Joy Grace Moli, who went to the city dump to look for a missing classmate, said the least the city government could do was respect the dead. "What do they think of these people? Garbage?" Moli said.

President Benigno Aquino III, who flew to Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, told reporters that bodies should never be brought to a landfill as this would deprive them of dignity and add more pain to families.

"I don't know of any plans of anybody being put into landfills. I don't know where these reports are coming from," he said, apparently unaware it was Emano who ordered it. "Whoever put the deceased in that situation will have to answer to a court of law," the President said.

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