MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines — A mayor does not normally make his name by digging up bones of the dead. But Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., saw no other way.

For years, the garbage-strewn public cemetery in his city, part of Metro Manila, had become overstuffed with bodies. Families of the dead stacked new concrete apartment niches five-high atop the old ones. But it wasn’t enough to handle 1,000 new arrivals each year. Gravediggers would make room by pulling out bones and tossing them to the ground or shoving them into unmarked plastic sacks. Babies were buried under the pathways, marked only by small marble stones inscribed with the child’s name.

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