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Who’s that boy?

Considering the sensitivity of this case, with public suspicion focused on the Philippine National Police, it would be best for the PNP to leave the forensic analysis of the cadaver found in Nueva Ecija to another agency.

At this point, with even the genitals of the cadaver now being subjected to minute scrutiny, forensic examination should be handed over to the University of the Philippines DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Natural Sciences Research Institute. Maybe the US Federal Bureau of Investigation can even be tapped for assistance.

The corpse is still there, so DNA can be obtained. Perhaps Reynaldo de Guzman, a.k.a. Kulot, also has dental records on file in his Pasig school.

When specimens for testing are taken, all interested parties must be present. No group can simply foist test results on the public and vouch for their authenticity. Relatives of the deceased, lawyers, and neutral forensic experts must be present when DNA samples are collected from the corpse and De Guzman’s biological parents Lina and Eduardo Gabriel.

The representatives of all concerned parties must be present as the samples are transported to the laboratory for analysis; there must be no room for switching or contamination of the specimens.

The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) openly wondered why the PNP conducted a DNA analysis of a cadaver that had already been identified and claimed by the supposed parents, when no request for such a test was made by the aggrieved party. Forensic examination of crime victims is mandatory and standard operating procedure for the PNP, but DNA testing is not. The speed by which the DNA test results were released is also impressive.

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This confusion could have been minimized if the PNP had asked a PAO representative to be present when the samples were taken from the cadaver and from the parents of De Guzman, who didn’t even know what a DNA test was.

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Yesterday the confusion moved to the genitals of the cadaver. De Guzman, according to some of his brothers, was circumcised while the cadaver was not. PAO officials countered that their forensic analysis in fact showed a circumcised corpse, although there was foreskin overgrowth – probably what is locally called sungaw. This can be the result of circumcision at the hands of the neighborhood barber, which is cheap and still common in this country, with the cut being healed by regular daubing with pureed guava leaves.

When was the last time the siblings saw their brother Kulot’s penis?

Of course we can’t rule out the possibility that the PNP could be telling the truth. All the more reason for the PNP not to worry about subjecting the cadaver and De Guzman’s parents to another DNA test by an independent agency – one that is not influenced by a presidential declaration that the killings of teenagers in recent weeks could be the handiwork of narco politicians and other drug dealers out to “sabotage” the campaign against illegal drugs.

The National Bureau of Investigation had conducted its own autopsy of the cadaver. It can send its own representative to witness another DNA testing by the UP forensics lab. If the NBI conducts its own DNA analysis and corroborates the PNP angle, the results could also be suspect because the justice secretary, whose department has supervision over the NBI, is expected to back President Duterte’s “sabotage” angle.

At the same time, there should be more effort to find out who was responsible for the horrific murder of that boy now lying in a coffin in Cainta. The emaciated body is that of a teenager, whose face was found wrapped in a thick layer of tape – a typical treatment of fatalities in the ongoing vicious war on drugs.

Curiously, if the dead is not De Guzman, no one else has come forward to claim the corpse. No one else is looking for a missing teenage boy. The face of the corpse has been shown on TV and is on Facebook. In our extended family system, how come no one except De Guzman’s parents have claimed the body? Did that dead boy just spring from a bamboo stem?

Eduardo, who identified a surgical mark and warts on the corpse at the morgue in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, insisted yesterday that he made no mistake. He’s the father and he knows his son, he said, and the body will be buried today.

Before the interment, PAO officials may want to have forensic personnel obtain DNA samples from the corpse, in the presence of De Guzman’s relatives and PNP representatives. A hair strand or nail clippings will do. This is so there will be no need to exhume the corpse as the controversy over its identity rages.

Yesterday there was a bit of tug-of-war over the body, which will be interred today as scheduled. Since the corpse had been officially declared as unidentified, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group tried to take custody of the body. But the family refused to hand it over and the CIDG members left.

The best remedy is for the PNP to find Reynaldo de Guzman, now officially classified as missing, and to arrest the evil men who tortured and executed that boy found in Gapan.

If that’s not Kulot lying in a coffin, it’s still a dead boy, viciously murdered – another teenager killed in recent weeks amid a ruthless war on drugs.

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