THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) set Wednesday a new timetable for the return of its three personnel who died during the earthquake in Haiti where they were deployed on a peacekeeping mission.

“Either over the weekend or early next week,” Armed Forces public affairs office chief Romeo Brawner told reporters in a press briefing at the military’s general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on the return of the soldiers.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

The three – Navy Data Processor 3 Pearly Panangui, Army Sergenat Eustacio Bermudezm and Air Force Sgt.Janice Arocena – were trapped at the Christopher Hotel, home of the United Nations (UN) in Haiti where they were doing clerical jobs.

Another Filipino, UN civilian staff Jerome Yap, also died at the hotel. His body may be transported to the United States where his parents live.

Last week, Brawner said the three bodies, escorted by Filipino peacekeepers led by Majo Steve Ducusin, arrive Monday. But on Tuesday, he said the arrival would be Wednesday.

Brawner said the bodies of the peacekeepers are still at the Dominican Republic where UN forensic experts are subjecting them to test.

“They still have to undergo more forensic tests because forensic experts of the United Nations do not want to release the bodies just like that. They still have to have a 100 percent match between the body and the identity (of the soldiers),” he said.

Brawner said they have already sent initial fingerprint and dental records of the three to the UN. “Today, we are trying to get (more) records from the NBI...anything that would ascertain their identify.”

Forensic examinations on peacekeepers, deployed under the UN, are normal. In one instance, it took a Filipino colonel - who died of malaria while on a peacekeeping mission in Liberia – before his body was transported to Philippines.

“It’s either over the weekend of early next week,” said Brawner, when asked what is their new timetable on the return of the three peacekeepers who are due to be extended a heroes’ welcome by the military leadership upon their return.

Quoting from a report of the AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center, Brawner said: “Forensics department (of UN) is requiring more submission of ante-mortem data like finger prints, specific characteristics like scars, tattoo or such unique matters as past removal of gallbladder or appendix that could result in a 100 percent positive match between the name and the remains.”

“There was a near complete match in the case of Sgt. Arocena of the Air Force but the forensics were not completely satisfied. Ms. Christine Botejue-Kyle could not authorize the release of the remains for repatriation without the forensics department’s confirmation of a 100 percent positive identification,” the same report stated.

P1-million donation

Filipino Catholic priests, meanwhile, have donated P1 million to the victims of Haiti earthquake.

The money was collected during the mass held Wednesday at the celebration of the second National Congress of the Clergy, where 5,500 priests attended.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, media director of Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the collection was the participants’ way of helping the victims.

“That was a concrete expression of solidarity with the brethren of that country,” he said.

The congress is being held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Quitorio also said that the talk of Papal Household preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa has touched the topic of the victims of calamities.

“At one of the talks of Fr. Cantalamesa, he exhorted the 5,000 priests to find the body of Christ in the Eucharist among the poor—which may include even victims of calamities,” he said.

It would be recalled that on January 24, all parishes in the country had a second collection intended for the Haiti earthquake victims, upon the request of CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar.

The Tandag prelate said they are ready to help victims of the tremors and will continue to pray for the family of those who died, those who were injured and for their immediate recovery.

“We pray for those who have perished, for the injured and for the displaced at this difficult and sad time,” he said. (VR/FP/Sunnex)