AL Bernard Coyoca, a diving instructor and a father of seven, went with his father Enrico to the latter’s birthplace in Daanbantayan town last Sept. 29. 

“His mother told him to come with me so we could have some bonding time,” Enrico said in Cebuano. 

But the bonding was cut short, because the next day, Al Bernard died while diving.

He said the autopsy report showed that Al Bernard, 33, may have died from effects of dynamite blast. 

Chief Insp. Felina Brunia Jr., medico-legal officer of the Regional Crime Laboratory Office 7, said the cause of death was “traumatic injuries to the head and trunk compatible with blast incidence.”

Past 5 a.m. of Sept. 30, Al Bernard took a dive to explore for the first time the seascape of Daanbantayan.

The town is host of Malapascua, a diver’s haven. But it is also known for dynamite fishing.

A diver for nearly 20 years, he was a freelance diving instructor.

By 7 a.m. or so, Al Bernard had not returned to shore to join his father for breakfast. This began to worry Enrico.

Shortly before noon, Enrico borrowed a pump boat and led the search for his son.

A neighbor later informed the Coyocas about a man floating lifeless in the seawaters off Barangay Paypay. 

Enrico’s brother went to the barangay and confirmed that it was Al Bernard.

“My son died because of illegal fishing,” said Enrico, a seaman who was originally scheduled to return to work abroad tomorrow. His trip will have to be postponed next month.

The autopsy result, he said, belied the initial findings that his son drowned.

Enrico said it was impossible for Al Bernard to have difficulty in breathing because his son knew how to swim and the oxygen tank was not empty.

The autopsy was conducted last Monday.

In a phone interview yesterday, Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro asked the town’s police chief to dig deeper into the death of Al Bernard.

“I will exert effort to dig deeper into this... My advocacy is to fight illegal fishing,” he said.

Witnesses told the police that they saw two men throw dynamite into the waters off Paypay.

Investigator PO3 Victor Avenido said they have the identities of the fishermen, but he is withholding their names pending charges.

Complaints for illegal fishing and reckless imprudence resulting in homicide will be filed against the suspects before the Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor in Cebu City.

The complaint will undergo preliminary investigation, during which the prosecutor will require the suspects to submit their affidavits.

Enrico said he will seek justice for his son, who will be buried in a private cemetery in Liloan tomorrow.

He also urged national and local government officials to intensify the campaign against illegal fishers.

Mahunong na nang illegal fishing, dili lang sa Cebu kon dili sa tibuok nasud (I hope illegal fishing will stop, not only in Cebu but in the whole country),” said Enrico.

Wa gyuy laing kapaingnan. Madaot ang corals; mahurot ang gagmayng isda. Wa na unya tay pagkaon puhon-puhon (Illegal fishing will lead us to nowhere. The corals will be destroyed; the small fish will vanish. Soon, we will have nothing to eat).”

Corro said they have been conducting talks with the fishermen as part of the town’s educational campaign against illegal fishing.

Just last Wednesday, they met with 12 to 14 fishermen and taught them good practices in fishing.

Aside from training them on responsible fishing, the mayor said the fishermen were also taught how to make products from bamboo and were given lessons on sewing or dress making so they would have an alternative livelihood.

The project is in partnership with National Government agencies.

Corro said the town’s Bantay Dagat and barangay officials have been instructed to look after those engaged in dynamite fishing and other illegal activities.

“This is not only an LGU concern. This is the responsibility of the community as a whole,” he added.