Syrian mistaken for Pinoy fatality in Riyadh blast

Posted at 11/13/12 7:34 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The body of a Syrian national was mistaken for that of Florentino Santiago, the lone overseas Filipino worker reported to have been killed in the gas tanker explosion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last November 1, an official said on Tuesday.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago was informed by Riyadh officials that Santiago's brother-in-law and fellow OFW identified the wrong body.

"Ang Saudi government ay gumawa ng DNA testing and matching, at nalaman na 'yung na-identify pala na cadaver o yung remains ay 'di pala ang remains ni Florentino Santiago pero remains ng isang Syrian national," Hernandez told dzMM.

Santiago was supposed to be one of the 22 fatalities in the Riyadh blast which occurred after a tanker hit a bridge in eastern Riyadh, causing a gas leak and an explosion in a nearby heavy machinery and vehicles warehouse.

The tanker was allegedly driven by another Filipino, identified as Ruben Kebeng.

Hernandez said Riyadh officials have yet to conduct DNA testing on two more unidentified cadavers. This will determine if Santiago was indeed one of the blast fatalities.

"Hindi pa po natin alam [na walang Pinoy na namatay]. Kasi mayroon pang dalawang cadaver na kailangang i-test para sigurado, para malaman natin kung iyung isa nga ay si Florentino Santiago," he said.

"Ang problema po doon ay kailangan nating i-match ang DNA ng labi sa isang relative ni Florentino Santiago."

2 Pinoys still in hospital

Hernandez said two of the 14 injured Filipinos in the blast remain inside the hospital.

The DFA official said as of Sunday, one of the Filipinos already underwent an operation while the other has yet to go under the knife.

Meanwhile, suspect Filipino Kebeng is in safe condition and has already met Filipino officials in Riyadh, according to Hernandez.

"Dinala siya sa korte para i-authenticate ang mga sinabi niya. Ang lumalabas sa mga sinabi niya na nawalan siya ng preno pero ang investigation doon ay patuloy pa," Hernandez said.

Hernandez appealed to the public not to make any conclusion about the collision while facts about it are still being gathered.

"Kailangan hintayin natin ang official report kasi siyempre marami ring sabi-sabi dyan at kailangan talaga makuha natin ang mga facts ng kaso," he said.