No permit for Mambaling 'morgue'; cadaver storage prompts probe

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A funeral home in Barangay San Nicolas, Cebu City has reportedly transformed its viewing facility into a morgue.

This was discovered by City Councilor David Tumulak during an inspection on Tuesday morning, Aug. 17, 2021, when the local lawmaker found the remains of 16 people in the building owned by St. Bernard Funeral Homes—10 were placed inside an ordinary freezer, while six were placed on the floor.

Three of the dead were suspected to have succumbed to complications caused by Covid-19.

It was initially believed that the viewing facility where wakes were often held had been abandoned; however, St. Bernard manager SJ Palomar said otherwise, adding that they have been using the facility since 2008.

Palomar further said they have a permit to operate the building, which stands between a commercial establishment and a mosque on N. Bacalso Avenue.

Palomar said they use the building to store dead bodies especially due to the huge volume of corpses that needs to be managed.

“Those were not fresh bodies. Those corpses, one female and two males, have been deposited and unclaimed bodies since 2020,” he said.

Palomar assured the bodies were properly embalmed to give more time for the families to prepare a proper burial for their deceased loved ones since some family members are still being quarantined.

“We helped them since it is in our protocol as a licensed embalmer to conduct the right preservation of the bodies,” he said. “We haven’t violated anything since we are only preserving the bodies.”

Palomar said they helped other funeral parlors by preserving the remains because the other funeral parlors have exceeded their capacity. The families gave consent to using ordinary freezers just to preserve the bodies.

The cadavers did not emit foul smell and the St. Bernard employees follow protocols by using protective gear in tending to remains, said Palomar.

Violation

Tumulak said the funeral home’s permit is for a viewing facility, not a storage of cadavers. So for the councilor, St. Bernard had committed a violation.

St. Bernard possibly had an arrangement with other funeral parlors. The storage fee for the first day is reportedly P13,000, and the fee is P8,000 on each succeeding day. The client funeral parlor of St. Bernard also collects fees, said Tumulak.

In a meeting with the St. Bernard management, Tumulak urged all the funeral parlors to avoid such practice because the families of the dead would be in a pitiful state because they have to shell out a big sum of money amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tumulak urged city residents to approach the City Health Department if their deceased loved ones were suspected to have died of Covid-19 so they can be guided on where to bury them and avoid paying storage fees.

The City Health Department is set to inspect St. Bernard’s viewing-facility-turned-morgue to check if it has a sanitation permit and other documents.

Covid-19 deaths

Meanwhile, six in every 10 deaths in the first half of August in Cebu that were attended to by Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes Inc. (CFHI) were related to Covid-19.

This was revealed by CFHI marketing manager Bong Ebo, who said their “crematory engagement now is very rapid and it’s growing every day.”

“A very sad reality,” he added.

CFHI is one of the biggest and oldest funeral homes in the country with 72 years of operation.

Ebo said infectious dead must be disposed of within 12 hours in accordance with Presidential Decree 856, or the Code of Sanitation of the Philippines.

He said the only two options available are either direct burial or direct cremation.

“On direct burials, our cemetery in Cebu has reached its maximum burial capacity. We suggested a multi-layered niche to be built in an all government, religious-owned cemeteries funded by the local government unit with a memorandum of agreement on usage restrictions,” Ebo said.

The cremation of a cadaver normally lasts four hours.

But with CFHI’s state-of-the-art cremation technology, the funeral home can cremate one cadaver in an hour, Ebo said.

Ebo said with Cosmopolitan, a maximum of eight bodies are cremated per day per branch.

However, Ebo said they cannot take care of all of the cadavers in one day because of the high number of mortalities.

In the first 15 days of August alone, the Department of Health 7 reported 500 Covid-19 deaths in the whole Cebu as Covid-19 cases continue to rise every day in Cebu. (PAC / KAL, JOB)

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