Human body parts found in Bilibid septic tank
Human remains were found on Wednesday inside a septic tank at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, prompting speculation that the site could be a mass grave for missing inmates. Initial reports said that Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) personnel discovered chopped-up body parts inside the sewer box located beside a chapel within Dormitory 8.
Angelina Bautista, BuCor officer in charge and deputy director general for operations, said that the septic tank would need to be emptied first before the exact number of bodies could be determined to allow the National Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic and Scientific Research Service to start the retrieval and identification process.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, however, told reporters that among those retrieved was the headless body of Michael Cataroja, a 25-year-old inmate who had been missing since July 15.
He said the finding was related to the reported killings inside the national penitentiary before incumbent BuCor chief Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. took over.
“Everything is sketchy and still in the exploratory stage. We’re still trying to find things out, trying to get to the bottom of everything,” Remulla stated, adding that they were considering tapping forensic anthropologists to examine the remains.
Dogs detecting cadavers
The possible mass grave was accidentally found while BuCor and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel were searching for Cataroja within the 10.87-hectare NBP compound from July 20 to 25.
When only his clothes were found hidden in the dormitory room’s ceiling, the PCG brought in its K-9 dogs that specialize in detecting cadavers.
Bautista said the dogs pointed toward the direction of the septic tank, prompting them to call in the NBI. She added that some inmates had told them the tank was used long ago as a mass grave for murdered prisoners. According to Bautista, they were drafting a list with the names of prisoners who were missing or unaccounted for. Cataroja was the first to be reported missing since Catapang took over in October. The inmate came to the NBP on July 26, 2022 after he was sentenced to serve from 12 to 20 years for violating the antifencing law.
While Cataroja was reported missing on the morning of July 15, it was not the first time he disappeared. There were instances where he was found in other dormitories or in a sack hidden in the ceiling.
The BuCor also asked the Philippine National Police to look for him at his last known address in Angono, Rizal province. His mother, however, did not cooperate with them and reportedly left their house.