Wednesday, August 12, 2009

8 Pinoys in Afghan crash to undergo DNA testing

Eight of the 10 Filipinos who were killed in a recent helicopter crash in Afghanistan will have to undergo DNA testing so that they can be properly identified, Vice President Noli De Castro said Thursday.The victims were were killed on July 19 after the Russian-owned civilian Mi-8 helicopter transporting them slammed into the tarmac at the Kandahar Air Base shortly after takeoff at NATO's largest air base in Afghanistan. [See: 10 Pinoys killed in Afghan chopper crash]In a statement., the Department of Foreign Affairs identified the 10, who were employees of US-based construction firm The AIM Group, Inc. as:1. Celso Q. Caralde (born in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental)2. Ely I. CariƱo (Cabusao, Camarines Sur)3. Ernesto C. De Vega (Naic, Cavite)4. Manolito C. Hornilla (Taysan, Batangas)5. Leopoldo G. Jimenez Jr. (Lubao, Pampanga)6. Mark Joseph C. Mariano (Floridablanca, Pampanga)7. Marvin P. Najera (San Fernando, Pampanga)8. Rene D. Taboclaon (Cagayan de Oro City)9. Recardo E. Vallejos (Bislig, Surigao del Sur)10. Noli M. Visda (Lubao, Pampanga)But De Castro, quoting a report from Kuwait Ambassador Ricardo Endaya, said that only two bodies were recognizable while the other eight were severely burned and charred.He identified the two recognizable fatalities as Jimenez and Hornilla. De Castro, who is also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers, said the remains of the two workers will immediately be repatriated to the Philippines, while the other eight bodies will still have to undergo DNA testing so that their names can be properly matched with their bodies.Endaya reported to the vice president that the unrecognizable remains will be brought to Maryland in the United States for the test, as it is “standard operating procedure" whenever the accident is military-related.Afghanistan is one of five countries where overseas Filipino workers are forbidden to work. The others are Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Nigeria, although there are moves to ease the restrictions on Jordan, Lebanon and Nigeria.Despite the ban, many Filipino workers still end up employed at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, where US troops and allies are fighting militants.The AIM Group and Philippine officials, however, maintained that the Filipinos killed in the crash had in fact been working at the NATO base for several years. They just did not return to the Philippines because the government had imposed a travel ban on Afghanistan and they didn’t want to risk losing their jobs, said Carmelita Dimzon, chief of the government's Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.Undersecretary Conejos said that the DFA will look into how these workers got into the country despite the ban after the repatriation procedures have been settled.

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