DNA tests for Valenzuela fire victims to take 'several months'

MANILA, Philippines – It will take “several months” before Philippine police can identify all victims of a fire that razed a factory in Valenzuela City, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Thursday, May 14. 

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the family members of the factory workers who perished, Roxas said most, if not all, of the dead were “beyond recognition.” 

Still, family members said they wanted to see the remains of the bodies recovered from the Wednesday, May 13, fire. They were hoping they would be able to identify their loves ones even without a DNA test. 

“Baka may makilala sila o sa hugis ng mukha, o sa kahit anong paraan ay makilala nila, pero masasabi ko talaga na beyond recognition ang mga labi kaya dadaan muna ito sa DNA testing,” Roxas said.

(They’re hoping to identify the remains, the face shapes, through any means possible but based on what I saw, the remains are beyond recognition that’s why they will have to go through DNA testing.) 

As of 5 pm Thursday, grieving families were preparing to line up at the Maysan barangay hall to view the bodies of their loved ones.  

A blaze swept through Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City, on Wednesday, May 13. At least 72 factory workers were confirmed dead as several others remained missing. The bodies retrieved from the site were mostly burnt beyond recognition.

Of the 72 who died, only 6 or 7 were wearing rings, necklaces, or other metal objects that could be used to identify them. Only one factory worker had an ID intact after the fire, added Roxas. 

PNP crime laboratory deputy director for operations Emmanuel Arañas said only 69 bodies will be subject to DNA tests because the 3 bodies first retrieved from the site had already been identified.

One team has been assigned to collect DNA samples from direct blood relatives of the victims. Arañas said the process is expected to be completed Thursday.

The matching of results, however, may take several months. Another problem that could delay the matching results would be victims whose relatives would be coming in from the provinces, Arañas said.

“Sa laki ng bilang at tsaka dahil hindi naman ito sa isa lang ang hinahanapan mo ng pangalan eh,” said Roxas. (It will take time because of the sheer volume and because you’re not just looking to identify one person.)

The interior secretary has since tasked both the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection to lead the probe into the fire

We will look at the entire chain of permits and licenses para malaman kung ano nangyari dito at, higit sa lahat, para maiwasan natin na maulit ang pangyayari na ito (to find out what really happened here and to prevent something like this from happening again),” added Roxas.  with Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com