MANILA — The skeletal remains recovered from an excavation at the Department of Justice compound in Manila this week could belong to 3 to 5 people, the agency said Friday.
"'Yung remains mga 3 to 5 estimate 'to, 3 to 5 sets of skeleton were found barely on the surface. Tapos 'yung equipment mismo natin 'yung nakahanap nun," DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano told reporters.
"If you look at the pictures, here, marami siya. So kahit isang skull lang ang na-ano, na-recover, maraming fragments. So of course, I don’t know if we will still be able to recover all the rest of the bones," he added.
(Three to 5 sets of skeletons were found barely on the surface. Our equipment found them. If you look at the pictures, they were many. So even if we recover only one skull, there are many fragments.)
The remains were immediately turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Forensic Division after they were discovered on Thursday.
He said the NBI is expected to come up with a report either today, Friday, or early next week.
Clavano however acknowledged it wasn’t the proper thing to do, citing later advice from forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun.
"She advised us, the next time makuha namin 'yung ganung klaseng skeletons or remains na not to touch it. Hindi po natin alam 'yun, that’s why tinurn-over kaagad namin sa NBI. So we will consult with her again as to what we can do and what we can find pa dito sa mga skeletons na nahanap," he said.
(She advised us not to touch the skeletons the next time. We weren't aware of it that's why we turned over them immediately to the NBI. So we will consult with her again as to what we can do and what we can find in the skeletons that we discovered.)
Fortun commented on the retrieval of the bones on Twitter, pointing out that improper documentation and recovery could affect the probe.
"Your chances of getting info from those remains depend a lot on how careful you document and recover them and the artifacts they’re with. Refer to experts," she tweeted.
"You don’t just gather bones. Association is important," she added.
Clavano said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla would meet with Fortun and some experts on Friday afternoon to discuss the issue.
"She’ll be bringing several other archaeologists, anthropologists, para ma-discuss ho natin 'yung posible nating gawin. As per her observations, para pong mass grave ang dating, right. We can only speculate at this point but hopefully with the report that she’s going to make, we get a clear picture of what’s going on," he said.
(She’ll be bringing several other archaeologists, anthropologists to discuss the possible steps. As per her observations, it was like a mass grave.)
Remulla on Thursday night pointed out that the remains could date back to World War II when Manila was an open city and the site of massive destruction.
The main building in the DOJ compound, called the De las Alas Hall, used to be the site of the University of the Philippines' Palma Hall prior to World War II.
But it became the justice complex when UP transferred to Quezon City after most of the university’s buildings were destroyed during the Battle of Manila, according to the DOJ document detailing the history of the area.