MANILA, Philippines — Amid confusion sparked by the release by the police of DNA tests on the supposed remains of Reynaldo de Guzman, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to perform its own test to determine if it’s really the body of the 14-year-old that is lying in a funeral home in Cainta.
Aguirre issued the order yesterday in response to the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s recent announcement that DNA samples taken from the cadaver believed to be De Guzman’s did not match samples drawn from his parents.
With the findings, police said De Guzman might still be alive and the policemen being held for his supposed murder were cleared.
At Camp Crame, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said De Guzman’s elder brothers were surprised to find the body they had thought was their brother belonged to an uncircumcised boy.
“A second DNA test is necessary to counter-check the PNP results and really answer the question on the identity of the cadaver,” Aguirre explained in an interview.
He admitted the results of the PNP’s DNA test came as a surprise following the positive identification of De Guzman’s cadaver by his parents.
“You will really wonder why the DNA did not match when the parents were very certain that the cadaver was that of their son. The parents should know their son very well because they raised him for 14 years,” he stressed.
But even if the NBI would confirm the findings of the PNP, Aguirre pointed out that DNA test results are not credible all the time.
“There are instances when the DNA result is discredited by wrong procedure or tainted specimen... So if the DNA would not match, it doesn’t automatically mean that the cadaver is not Kulot’s,” he explained, referring to De Guzman by his nickname.
The justice secretary added that a DNA test would only stand scrutiny during trial when the result is certified as more than 99 percent accurate. “This really needs further investigation,” he added.
Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, meanwhile, questioned the legality of PNP’s DNA test, saying it was conducted without the presence of a lawyer.
PAO is providing legal assistance to De Guzman’s parents Eduardo Gabriel and Lina Sta. Ana.
Acosta said she finds it suspicious that the PNP conducted DNA testing, considering that there was no issue regarding the identity of the supposed remains reported as those of De Guzman.
She rebutted PNP’s argument that the DNA test was standard operating procedure.
“If it’s an SOP on their part, how come they did not conduct a DNA test on Kian and Carl?” Acosta pointed out, referring to the two other victims of killings, Kian Loyd delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz.
“There was no issue at all on the identity of the cadaver and that there are no other claimants. The PAO Forensic Lab therefore will take no further action on the DNA result as it appears to be of very little credibility given the circumstances surrounding its release,” Acosta said.
PAO’s forensic expert Erwin Erfe, for his part, stressed that based on their forensic analysis, De Guzman’s cadaver “has evidence of previous circumcision (with overgrown penile skin). The police might have misinterpreted it.”
At Camp Crame, Carlos scoffed at PAO’s questioning the results of the PNP’s DNA tests on De Guzman’s remains.
“What is glaring now is the inputs given by the brothers, which is they found the cadaver to be uncircumcised when they know pretty well that Kulot had been circumcised,” Carlos said.
Earlier, De Guzman’s brothers said they were beginning to have doubts on the identity of the body they had thought was Kulot after the release of the DNA results. Yesterday, a neighbor who identified herself as Maris Grana said they had doubts all along that the body lying in a neighborhood funeral home is that of Kulot’s.
The body earlier reported to be that of Kulot was found floating in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija last Sept. 5. Kulot went missing after going out with 19-year-old former University of the Philippines student Carl Arnaiz on the night of Aug. 17 to buy food. Arnaiz was found by his family in a morgue in Caloocan City on Aug. 28.
Carlos said the latest discovery as well as the results of the DNA tests on the supposed remains of Kulot should give hope to the boy’s family that he might still be alive.
“We are hoping and praying that with this result, Kulot is still alive. The family is given hope that there’s a possibility that Kulot is alive,” he said.
Earlier, Deputy Director General Fernando Mendez Jr., PNP deputy chief for operations, said DNA samples from the remains of the boy found in Gapan did not match those of De Guzman’s biological parents Eduardo and Lina.
Acosta, however, insisted it was Kulot’s body that was found in Nueva Ecija last Sept. 5 as she accused some groups of muddling the investigation.
Carlos also questioned the basis for some people’s doubting the result of the DNA test conducted by the PNP Crime Laboratory.
“Who is the expert? We have no quarrel with the PAO. Now, on the question on the credibility of the conduct of the DNA, sino ba yung may mandato (who has the mandate)?” Carlos said.
“The crime lab has been around for 70 years and it has the mandate to undertake scientific and forensic investigation. So they have to look at that… we are here to provide them what is the result of the DNA test conducted on the cadaver,” he pointed out.
He advised those questioning the results of the PNP’s DNA tests to seek the consent of Kulot’s family for the conduct of another DNA test.
“What is the authority and the mandate of the expert questioning the DNA result? With due respect to a co-government institution or office, we are just doing our job,” Carlos maintained, apparently referring to PAO.
He also chided Acosta for insinuating they were muddling the case. “Who is muddling now the case? We have no intention to muddle the case. We are doing our part in investigating this case and we are supporting the NBI,” he said.
“The question is, are they investigating? Is PAO an investigating body? They are lawyering for the poor people like the family of Kulot and Carl and Kian,” he added.
Chief Insp. Lorna Santos, head of PNP’s DNA Division, earlier insisted the test result is 99.9 percent accurate.