After probing septic tanks, BuCor finds ‘no mass graves’ | Inquirer News

After probing septic tanks, BuCor finds ‘no mass graves’

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:48 AM August 25, 2023

Chopped body found in Bilibid septic tank; authorities scrambling for identification

Search and Rescue dogs from Coast Guard found the septic tank where a chopped body was discovered believed to be from an inmate that has been missing for weeks. | PHOTO: BuCor

They’re just septic tanks, plain and simple, not pits doubling as “mass graves.”

That’s how deep the investigation went at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, as officials announced on Thursday that the three septic tanks probed for the past few weeks inside the national penitentiary turned out “negative for human remains.”


The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief, Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr., reported the results of a forensic examination conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation inside NBP’s maximum security compound.


Missing inmate

The investigation—and the rumors about the supposed graves—started in late July after Angelina Bautista, at the time the acting BuCor deputy director general for operations, said she received a tip from inmates about such secret disposal sites for the remains of slain inmates inside Bilibid. Also around this time, BuCor was looking for an inmate, Michael Cataroja, who had been reported missing since July 7. The bureau went as far as asking assistance from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the search for the prisoner.

The PCG’s cadaver dogs, which are trained to pick up the scent of human remains, led investigators to a septic tank at Dormitory 8, a part of the maximum security compound’s Quadrant 3.

Siphoning off the tank’s contents, the NBI said it found a bone fragment, a piece of underwear, two razors and three lighters.

Congress wades in

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla later said Cataroja’s decapitated body was found in the septic tank— but later clarified that he was fed wrong information. The House and the Senate also waded into the septic tank issue and launched their own inquiries, tackling other longtime problems at Bilibid in the process.

It was during a Senate hearing on Aug. 8 that the NBI, through Dr. Annalyne Dadiz of the medicolegal division, reported that the bone found in the septic tank was that of a chicken’s leg.


Suspicions about the secret graves further dissipated with the recapture of Cataroja on Aug. 17 in Angono, Rizal province.


The inmate told investigators that he hid under a garbage truck to slip out of NBP.

On Thursday, Catapang declared: “There’s no mass grave, so we already submitted to the (Department of Justice) and to Congress that we’ve finally resolved the issue.”

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“If there’s really no mass grave, so be it,’’ the official stressed.


Human body parts found in Bilibid septic tank

NBI: Bone found in BuCor septic tank ‘consistent with a chicken leg bone’

TAGS: BuCor mass grave, New Bilibid Prison, septic tanks

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