THE members of the National Medical Solidarity Mission (NMSM) group whose companions were threatened by the paramilitary in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte last Sunday, claimed that 26 tribes folk from 13 sitios who returned from UCCP Haran in Davao City to their village in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, had since died of suspected cholera.

Two others also died of similar symptoms but were never in Haran. Dr. Ruth Gamboa, from University of Philippines Mindanao, one of the volunteers who went to Nasilaban village, Talaingod town ,for the NMSM during the Kapehan sa Dabaw Monday, February 13, said that as of the moment, they still have yet to confirm if the disease is actually cholera.

“Sabi ng isang doctor, symptoms pinahayag ay parang cholera ngunit hindi pa conclusive dahil wala pang laboratory tests, ang tubig lahat ng 13 sitios kung saan may namatayan ay spring water, (One doctor said the symptoms are similar to cholera, but inconclusive since there are no laboratory tests. The water in all 13 sitios where some people died, is spring water)” Gamboa said.

Of the number, 18 were children. These sitios include Nasilaban, Bugni, Sambologan, Laslasakan, Bayabas, Bagang, Pongpong, Peroy, 39, Sasu, Nalubas, Dalian, and Central Baugan.

“Pagbalik nila, many sitios declared suka kalibang, and a health worker from non-government organization only entered the area after the death of tribal leader Datu Gombil Mansimuyan,” she said.

Mansimuyan was buried last December 15, 2016. She said while there is no findings yet on the water samples, focus group discussions of Manobo leaders from various villages bared that water from Haran is very different from spring water and the group also described Haran as hot and congested area for them.

Gamboa said that this outbreak which victimizes the evacuees is not new as in the year 2014, records also showed that six died in four sitios after they stayed in Haran for a month.

She said the primary reason of their participation of the mission was to gather date about the outbreak and it is unfortunate that the microbiologist and parasitologist who came in the area, were stranded last Sunday due to paramilitary harassment. She said that she was able to return last Saturday and those that were stranded were supposed to be the last batch going out.

Gamboa said that results of the lab tests will be known this week.

Save or Schools Network's Luz Ilagan bared that this issue highlights the lack of services available for Indigenous people and that there should be proper orientation on how to adjust from city water to spring water.

“Yung highlight kakulangan talaga serbisyo mabuti nalang pumunta ang admin ng DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), walay nurse health center, social workers, no teachers na muatiman (It's good that a DSWD official went there, but there is no nurse in their health center, no social workers, not even teachers to attend to the people),” she said.

Social Welfare Undersecretary Mae Fe Templa who went to the area last February 9 in support in the mission, said they were able to give out 2,000 food packs to people coming from 40 communities in villages Palma Gil and Dagohoy.

As part of the NMSM, a total of 1,000 school-aged children were fed rice and vegetable stew through the DSWD feeding program. Templa said they coordinated with the Municipal Health Officer when they went to the area, but the officer did not assist them.

She also added that she also known through the Secretary of Talaingod Mayor Basilio Libayao that the paramilitary who harassed the remaining members of the solidarity mission are from a non-active paramilitary group, which the people’s organizations claimed to be still active. She added that military is encamped in the sitio one hour away from Nasilaban, Talaingod Davao del Norte.

“Pinaka problema tao doon, kasinga gitna-gitna.Sa Sentro Sto. Nino meron kang Alamara na mga miyembro, sa kabila may military,” Templa said.

She added that DSWD will report this situation to the President.

“I will be joining the next three days, the cabinet assistance system, surely I will report all these events to come up with recommendation of the national medical and solidarity mission,” she said.

Gamboa added that after the conclusion of their data gathering, the opinion of the government agencies like DOH, DSWD, and other groups are needed so that they can sum up a better story of what is really happening on the grounds.

She likewise added that a joint support from different government agencies so that people in the area can avail different services which are located in far flung areas.