POLICE authorities filed charges on Friday against 10 alleged treasure hunters who were arrested last Tuesday for allegedly digging without permit inside a national heritage site in San Joaquin town in Iloilo province.
San Joaquin police chief Reymund Gemarino said the suspects were arrested last Tuesday after they were caught illegally digging a hole inside the Camposanto or mortuary chapel located inside the San Joaquin Cemetery.
San Joaquin Cemetery, which reportedly host some jewels and gold bars left by the Spanish friars in the 19th century, is a national heritage site declared by the National Historical Institute in 2013.
The suspects denied the accusations, saying they were hired by Father Wilson Silvela, parish priest of San Joaquin, to instead cover up the hole inside the chapel.
Silvela refused to comment over the suspects’ allegation.
The suspects claimed that the diggings inside the Camposanto started in December 2015.
Digging inside a national heritage site for the purpose of obtaining materials of cultural historical value without prior written authority from the National Museum is a violation against Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009).
The Act also prohibits any excavation or diggings without the supervision of a certified archaeologist.
The suspects may face a fine of not less than P200,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, or both.