Just a few hours ago, I heard a news that Army’s 63rd IB based in my hometown Northern Samar together with the Philippine National Police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives of the province recently “exhumed” a “mass grave” in an interior barangay in Mondragon, Northern Samar where allegedly purged victims of the New People’s Army in the 80’s were buried.
According to the news, an informant tipped the army of the location of the “mass grave”. The tipster claimed to be a rebel returnee and one of the NPA members who did the alleged purging.
On the other hand, the National Democratic Front in Eastern Visayas denied any “mass grave” in the province and slammed it as military fabrication. They further stated that in the history of the revolutionary movement in the Samar island, purging incidents never occurred there.
When I heard about the news, I tried to do a bit research about decomposition of textile which is related to recognizing the postmortem interval (PMI) of a body. I came across a thesis by Kellie Marie Gordon entitled A Comparative Analysis of the Deterioration Rates of Textiles and their Role in Determining Postmortem Interval submitted at the Louisiana State University and where she did field tests on the deterioration of cotton and polyester when buried with a body, buried with the fabric alone or left on the surface like the usual incident where bodies which are victims of crimes are most likely to be found.
According to her research, after 7 months and 12 days, cotton—which is commonly used for our shirts—buried with a body (a pig to be exact) has moderate to pronounced deterioration, while cotton buried alone has complete deterioration.
Now why am I including this research (I have more downloaded research about textile deterioration and PMI but haven’t read it yet) in this blog about this mass grave issue? According to what I’ve heard on the news, a certain 15-year old boy from that area where the “mass grave” was found was recognized through his clothes. This is the same with the “mass grave” in Inopacan, Leyte (joked to be the traveling bones) where relatives of the so-called purged victims recognized the bodies because of the clothes which their relatives wore the day they disappeared.
Science tells us that clothes after 20 years or so will be impossible to be recognized under our naked eyes. Unless they have forensic evidences like samples of the same clothes the victim wore 20 years ago where they can compare the ones found on the bones, there’s a chance to prove such claims (but given the situation of the crime labs here in the Philippines, much more here in the region, I doubt it).
Logic and common sense tells us that there’s a slim chance that a person can positively remember what a person was particularly wearing at a particular incident, unless one has a photographic memory.
In addition to the Inopacan mass grave where I saw some of the pictures of the exhumation, I noticed that the clothes that the bodies (which are bones already) are supposed to be wearing didn’t show any signs of 20 years of deterioration. They were dirty definitely but decomposed worth of 20 years? I don’t think so.
So how different is this Mondragon mass grave? The authorities identified a body but what’s disturbing is that the crime lab in Northern Samar doesn’t even have equipments for comparing DNA samples and is as backward as our economy.
So how in the world did they positively identify a body? I’m not a forensic expert but definitely a fan of CSI which is close enough to real forensic investigation but these mass graves are so absurd in terms of forensic investigation you can’t help but think that its nothing but pure military propaganda.
Let me guess, the next thing the military will do is condemn the so-called purging and mass grave, call on us human rights defenders, especially Katungod-SB to condemn the mass grave, file another defective multiple murder case against Jose Maria Sison, et. al. where legal personalities like Rep. Satur Ocampo are included.
This kind of military gimmick is too dumb of a tactic to be believed. Makes me realize more that because of their desperation to crush the revolutionary movement, the more we should stand up and fight against their attacks on the legal democratic movement.