Army to families: ‘Open caskets when you get home’

By : Bobby Lagsa Mindanao Today/03:00:47pm 07/21/2021


Soldiers arrange the coffins of the six troopers from Northern Mindanao and Caraga who died during the crash of the C-130 aircraft in Sulu on Sunday at the 4th Infantry Division’s gymnasium on Wednesday, July 7. (Jigger Jerusalem) (Note: This news article was published in the print edition of Mindanao Today on July 9, 2021)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The families of the six soldiers killed in a C-130 plane crash in Patikul, Sulu will have to wait until their remains are delivered to homes before their caskets can be opened.

The remains of Sgt. Butch Maestro (Misamis Oriental), Pvt. Raymar Carmona (Agusan del Norte), Pvt. Vic Monera, Pvt. Mel Mark Angana, Pvt. Mark Nash Lumanta, and Pvt. Marcelino Alquisar, all of Bukidnon, were identified through their dental records.

Their remains were flown in from Zamboanga City and brought to the gym of Camp Edilberto Evangelista, headquarters of the 4th Infantry Division for an overnight vigil and honor guard on Wednesday.

According to Maj. Francisco Garello Jr., 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, their remains were sealed in a casket as they were burned during the tragic crash of the Philippine Air Force cargo plane. Fifty-three soldiers perished and three non-passenger civilians were also killed.

The families of the four soldiers from Bukidnon would have wanted to see their sons in the coffin to confirm if it is them inside the casket, but Garello said that it is not possible.

“Right now, the order is not to open, their remains were wrapped in plastic because of the burnt,” Garello said.

Monera’s mother Vilma said that she wanted to see her son.

“I would like to see him inside, to confirm that it is him,” she said.

Jowena Lumanta-Reyes, the elder sister of Lumanta, also echoed the same sentiment.

“The last time I saw him was on July 1, on this very gym where they were staying awaiting for their deployment,” Reyes said as she cried.

She said that all she can do was sit in front of his brother’s casket, unable to see him.

Reyes came alone as she now resides in this city and her parents are too old to come here from Maramag, Bukidnon, a six-hour travel by land.

“I want to make sure that it is my little brother inside, just last week I was here on two consecutive days just to see him even if just for a little while,” she said.

The family of Carmona did not come but his remains will be taken to Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, in Caraga Region, some seven hours away.

Garello, however, assured that the remains inside the casket are those of their family members.

“It is based on their dental record and one soldier wrote his name inside his combat boots, that was another proof of identity,” he said.

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