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Danger at Haran: Autopsy on infant not yet out, but police not ruling out COVID-19 infection

The Police Regional Office XI feared contamination inside the UCCP-Haran compound following the death of an eight-month-old baby reportedly due to pneumonia.

Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, the Police Regional Office XI director, expressed alarm on Wednesday’s virtual presser after learning about the death of the infant. He feared possible contamination inside the compound.

“Pneumonia is one of the symptoms of COVID so we cannot discount … we cannot still rule out that the baby had no COVID,” he said.

The police regional director said there are still 700 IPs inside the Haran compound.

“So, there is a very high risk of infection that might scatter or spread on others inside,” he said.

But Escobal said that the organizers inside are preventing the government from lending assistance, which is what they are trying to address.

“They need to coordinate with our government agencies, especially in the Department of Health and City Health (Office) so that they can be brought in the facility where they can be accorded proper care and medical health interventions,” he further stressed.

Col. Kirby John Kraft, Davao City Police Office director, told TIMES that the medico-legal of the Crime Laboratory has sent the samples to the Southern Philippines Medical Center for the histopathology “to determine the cause of death.”

“And the process will take time, ” he said.

He added that they are coordinating with the City Health Office and the Department of Health and other stakeholders to manage the people, particularly the children, inside the facility.

“With what happened there, there is an ongoing investigation already because we are looking also at possible neglect inside Haran, especially those officials inside, ” he added.

“This situation would tell us so many things on the health condition inside and with the surroundings,” he further said. “We also urge our national agencies to help so that we can address the problem inside.”

The result of the autopsy will help determine if there was foul play and allay fears that it could be COVID-19-related.

Last week, Mayor Sara Duterte said during a radio interview that she had ordered the DCPO to exhume the body of the baby for autopsy and for proper burial. Based on the initial report, the body was exhumed from Madapo Cemetery on May 13 by personnel of the DCPO, Scene of the Crime Operatives, and officials of Barangay 8-A.

The information about the baby’s death was disclosed on May 11 by the mother, who is said to be mentally challenged, to social workers of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) during the relief goods distribution at UCCP Haran.

Alias John, 20, said her daughter died and was buried on the same day at Madapo Cemetery without proper preparation and documentation from the government. The San Pedro Police Station said that the shallow grave did not have the authorization from the cemetery administrators.

The UCCP Haran compound has been taking indigenous people evacuees since 1994 because of alleged massive militarization in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, and other areas. The military, meanwhile, insisted that the Lumads staying there were hostages of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its legal fronts for their propaganda.

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