The team scouring waters off Lapu-Lapu City for the remains of Mayor Gisela Boniel continued on Monday to express optimism in finding the body of the Bien Unido chief executive who is presumed dead.
According to the search team’s leader police Chief Insp. Jacinto Mandal, Central Visayas police director Chief Supt. Noli Talino has not ordered the suspension of their operations 11 days after starting on June 8.
“We should not lose hope,” Mandal said. “There has been no order from the regional director to terminate our search and retrieval operations, we will continue.”
However, Mandal admitted that the number of volunteer drivers dwindled due to the continuous underwater diving operations which may have caused excessive nitrogen absorption.
“In the 19 dives that we carried out, there is a tendency that nitrogen would get inside the body and you can really feel the abnormalities in the body,” he said.
Some of the divers who have joined the search and retrieval operations were from private diving shops while the others were from Lapu-Lapu City and Bien Unido.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy continued to utilize technologies including an unmanned underwater robot, sonar site scanner and fish finder to aid divers in locating Boniel’s remains.
Mandal said that they are currently focusing their operations in waters off Caubian Island, but would likely make their way to Camotes Islands as the body may have been swept away by strong undercurrents.
“We are tracing a specific grid coordinate. And we are following the flow of the current,” said Mandal.
The authorities’ search in the area has been prompted by a statement made by suspect Riolito “Etad” Boniel on June 8 when he was arrested by authorities.
Riolito had claimed that he was the boatman when Gisela was allegedly shot dead by her husband Board Member Nino Rey Boniel.
The mayor’s body was then thrown into waters off Lapu-Lapu City and bound with a robust fish net which was also tied with rocks weighing around 30 kilograms, Riolito said.
Both Nino and Riolito are detained at a police station in Cebu City while parricide charges have been filed against them. (Rey Tutas)