Memorial at sea for Bohol mayor
CEBU CITY—White chrysanthemums were thrown into the waters between the islands of Olango and Caubian in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu province, on Thursday morning to remember Mayor Gisela Bendong Boniel of Bien Unido in Bohol province, who was allegedly killed by her husband, Bohol Board Member Niño Boniel.
Gisela’s siblings, son and relatives boarded a pump boat to hold a memorial in the area where her body was believed thrown after she was shot dead supposedly due to a marital rift arising from jealousy and financial problem.
Under clear skies, the mayor’s relatives lit candles which they placed on a piece of wood before letting it float on the sea.
“The usual scenario is for people to visit cemeteries on Nov. 1 and 2. But here we are, in the middle of the sea. We neither have a body nor a tomb to visit in the cemetery. The person we loved was buried at sea,” said Gisela’s older sister Mikay Bendong.
Although the search for Gisela’s body had ended, she said they kept hoping that it would soon surface.
“We hope to find even just her bones,” she said.
Also present were Gisela’s 5-year-old son, sisters Jessica and Josephine, brother Julius, and other relatives.
Led by a pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church Philippines, the Bendong family offered prayers and chants, appealing to God to help them find the remains of Gisela, the youngest of seven siblings.
Gisela was allegedly shot in the head by her husband, Niño, before his group dumped her into the sea on June 7.
One of the suspects, Riolito “Etad” Boniel, told police that he operated the boat where the the slain mayor was loaded. He accompanied authorities and divers to the part of the sea where they threw the body.
For three weeks, divers scoured the seas near Caubian Island in Lapu-Lapu, but did not find Gisela’s body. The police stopped the search since divers could no longer go down beyond the depth of 61 meters (200 feet).
Niño is facing parricide charges at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City, which took over all newly filed criminal cases in Lapu-Lapu City.
Charged with murder were Niño’s cousin Riolito, driver Randel Lupas, Wilfredo Hoylar, Restituto Magoncia Jr., Allan delos Reyes Jr. and Lobo Boniel.
The cases against Wilson Hoylar and Brian Boniel Saycon remain at the Lapu-Lapu City prosecutor’s office for preliminary investigation.
Niño, Riolito, Lupas, Wilfredo Hoylar and Magoncia had been arrested. Their arraignment was set on Dec. 8.
Despite the tedious legal process, Mikay said the family believed that they would get justice in due time.
“Our family is united to secure justice for Gisela. We know we will [get justice] … We’re hopeful and we trust our country’s justice system,” she said.
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