Two days have passed since the underwater search for the remains of Mayor Gisela Boniel was halted after 15 operation days and 38 dives.
But the search team’s leader, police Chief Insp. Jacinto Mandal, is still not discounting the possibility that Boniel’s body is somewhere in the depths of Lapu-Lapu City seawaters, parts unreachable by his scantily equipped divers.
“We were not able to find her but she could still be in deepest parts of the area which is beyond our capability,” he said in Cebuano.
According to Mandal, the search team submerged to underwater depths of only up to 200 feet while some areas around the alleged drop site of Boniel’s body are deeper than 700 feet.
These parts have already been searched by Philippine Navy vessels using scanning devices but a deeper probe would require technical divers, those equipped with better diving gear.
Authorities could also use an ROV or a remotely operated underwater vehicle to scour the lowest points of the Lapu-Lapu City waters, Mandal said.
However, the police official noted that rental of the equipment is likely to cost over P2 million.
“I think there’s one in the Cebu Yacht Club, but based on what I know, rental fee is P2.3 million,” Mandal said.
“It can go through the deepest areas. It’s like a submarine,” he added.
On Wednesday, Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LCPO) chief Sr. Supt. Romel Cabagnot announced that the search and retrieval operation for Boniel’s remains had been terminated.
“We didn’t find anything. We have already scoured the area pointed out by the witness and suspect, that’s why we decided to really terminate it,” said Cabagnot.
The divers focused their search in waters off Caubian and Olango Islands in Lapu-Lapu City based on a testimony of Riolito “Etad” Boniel.
Riolito had claimed to be the boatman when Gisela was shot dead mid-sea and thrown into seawaters in the said area. (with reports from Allen Doydora)