Grave robbers – Philippine remains ‘sold as Japan war dead’

Grave robbers have dug up the remains of Philippine tribesmen and passed them off as the bodies of Japanese soldiers for return to Japan, tribal leaders said Wednesday.

The skeletons of hundreds of Mangyan and Ifugao tribesmen have been shipped to Japan since 2008 after being unearthed by looters paid by a Japanese group called Kuentai that purports to find remains of the country’s World War II dead, they claimed.

Aniw Lubag, a Mangyan leader, told a news conference his tribe briefly detained three people in 2008 as they stole bones from a burial cave on the central island of Mindoro.

"They said they were hired by non-Mangyans. We heard other Filipinos ordered (the digging up of bones) and then gave them to Kuentai," said Lubag.

Caesar Dulnuan, a head of the Ifugao tribal group, said skeletons had vanished from the northern mountain community after the Japanese group began searching for the remains of war dead in the area.

"We don’t know who received the bones. There were a lot of people and they paid them 500 pesos (11.40 dollars)" per skeleton, he said.

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