KOTA KINABALU: Filipino authorities have decided to carry out their own identification of the skeletal remains of three people believed to be those of the East Ocean tugboat hostages abducted by Abu Sayaff gunmen six months ago.
The remains have been flown from the Philippines Marines 11th Battalion base camp in Sanga Sanga on Tawi Tawi Island to Philippines military Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City yesterday for DNA test.
Philippines officials said that they expected government-to-government formalities to be completed and a proper post mortem carried out to determine the cause of death as well as ascertain the true identities of the three.
Philippines marines in Tawi Tawi had said that they believed the skeletal remains were that of the three East Ocean crewmen Malaysians engineer Toh Chiu Tiong of Sibu and crane operator Wong Siu Ung, both 52, of Miri together with their Indonesian tugboat skipper Walter Sempel, 53.
The discovery of the skeletal remains came after captured gunmen led Filipino marines to the shallow graves that they claimed were that of the abducted men.
On Monday, a Malaysian official from the Davoa City consular office had received the skeletal remains from officers of the Philippines Marines 11th Battalion.
The initial decision was for the remains to be sent back directly to Sandarac from Tawi Tawi but with the latest development, there seems to have been a change of mind by officials in Zamboanga City and Manila as they now want government to government formalities observed.
When contacted yesterday, Sabah CID Chief Senior Asst Comm II Mohd Bakri Zinin said that he was made to understand that the skeletal remains would not be returned as the Philippines authorities wanted to conduct their own DNA investigations.
Filipino gunmen in Bongoa waters close to the Sabah-Philippines border grabbed the trio when they raided the tugboat on its way from Miri to Solomon Island in the Pacific Ocean on April 11.