CEBU, Philippines - Barili town in Cebu woke up in alarm early Wednesday over a mysterious package thrown over a cliff by a road in Barangay Guibuangan.
The package was wrapped in white cloth and tied with wires. It formed the shape of a human person.
Upon police inspection, the body of a naked 6-year-old girl was found, drenched with her own blood, was found inside.
"We all thought that it was a dead dog or pig. But when we examined it, it was like a body of a person. We then called the tanod," beach caretaker Pablito Delumpar said.
A few kilometers away, in Barangay Palupat, a school bag containing a school uniform, underwear, books, notebooks, and two P50 bills was found.
The items were identified to be owned by a certain Ellah Joy Pique, a Grade 1 student from Calajoan Elementary School.
In another municipality in Minglanilla, a 6-year-old girl named Ellah Joy Pique was also reported missing since Tuesday afternoon.
"We directly coordinated with the police, since the missing child in Minglanilla might be the same as the dead body found here," Senior Police Officer 3 Elsa Albuera said.
Renante Pique, father of one of the missing girls, directly went to Barili. He first went to a police station. He cried upon seeing the school bag.
When he went to the funeral parlor in Ronda, Cebu, he cried in horror upon seeing his child.
"Who did this to her? She's my only girl daughter. I can't believe this would happen," Renante said in Cebuano.
Renante said he always fetched his child from school every day. It was only that day when he failed to fetch Ellah Joy because he had some things to do.
"She came home that noon. I hugged her tightly and asked permission that I can't fetch her from school that day. She was with her friends, but then this happened," Renante said.
Ellah Joy’s body was brought home on Thursday to Minglanilla. Her friends and family greeted her with tears and signs of regrets.
Her mother, Ligaya, couldn't contain her sadness.
"She's not Ellah Joy. That's not her! Her face isn't like that," Ligaya shrieked upon seeing the bloated face of the child inside the coffin.
The cadaver has yet to undergo an autopsy to identify her cause of death.
Stricter security measures
The murder sent off alarm signals in the Department of Education (DepEd).
On Thursday morning, DepEd assistant regional director Carmelita Dulangon visited and inspected the Calajoan Elementary School.
Most of Ellah Joy's classmates were absent. They were afraid of what happened to Ellah Joy.
"I don't want to go to school now. I might be the next one (who will be kidnapped)," Joy Love said.
DepEd said the students will undergo a debriefing.
"We want to let the parents know that we are there for them. We will help the students overcome from this experience," school principal Jenalyn Craste assured.
The Parents-Teachers Association in Minglanilla called a meeting right away to discuss stricter security measures in school.
Parents and teachers took note of the fact that Calajoan Elementary School has no barangay tanods or security guards to guide the students in the school.
In the meeting, they recommended to let the guardians who will fetch the children carry an ID, ask the barangay to help get free service of tanods, and build stronger fences around the school
Dulangon promised to submit the recommendations to the central office for faster implementation.