Police are investigating the circumstances behind the death of a 19-year-old Lumad inside UCCP-Haran after they confirmed that his body was buried surreptitiously at Wireless Cemetery on Friday afternoon.
The teen was identified as Arnel Labando, and the report came in the wake of two other recorded infant deaths inside the same compound along Father Selga Street.
Col. Kirby John Kraft, chief of the Davao City Police Office, told TIMES that the barangay and the City Health Office were not informed of the burial. They learned about it from Barangay 8-A chairman Ariel Lagmay on Saturday afternoon who, in turn, was only informed by purok leader Eduardo Tulod.
Tulod said that a dead Lumad was buried at 5:45 p.m. on June 12. They did not use a coffin and only covered the body with a blanket.
Immediately, Lagmay coordinated with the San Pedro Police Station, Women and Child Protection Unit, City Intelligence Unit, and City Social Security and Development Office to confirm the report.
They discovered that Labando was admitted to the Brokenshire hospital, and the doctor advised the claimant inside UCCP Haran to immediately bury his remains. According to Kraft, the cause of death was pneumonia.
“We will have it exhumed for swab testing,” Kraft said.
He said the autopsy should reveal the cause of death, but they are not speculating for now.
Previously, residents of Barangay 8-A have submitted a petition for the Lumads inside the United of the Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound to return home to their communities following the two infant deaths within 10 days of each other.
Lagmay revealed that their office has received a petition letter, with attached signatures from his constituents, expressing their concerns over the presence of the Lumads inside the compound.
“The residents of the barangay made the appeal that, if possible, the Lumads living inside the UCCP-Haran should be returned home,” Lagmay added. “They are afraid because there are so many Lumads residing at Haran.”
The Pasaka-SMR, meanwhile, denied that the infants died from the COVID-19.
Datu Mentroso Malibato, the vice-chair of Pasaka, said they took all measures to protect the inhabitants. “Through the help of our volunteer doctors, we implemented social distancing, handwashing before entering the compound, and made regular health consultations,” he said.
“The spreading of fake information towards us is degrading us, as if we are ignorant, don’t really have legitimate demands, and create trouble here in Davao City,” he added. “Aren’t disinformation and misinformation prohibited under RA 11332 also known as Bayanihan to Heal as One?”
Recently, Mayor Sara Duterte said the Lumads inside UCCP Haran are already suffering from a health crisis even before the pandemic.
That is why she wants to charge the Pasaka day Salugpungan Kalimudan-Southern Mindanao Region (Pasaka-SMR) with murder for what has happened to the infants who died last month.
“If you are going to ask me? They were murdered by Pasaka. Their death will not happen if they only provided them enough food, essential health services like vaccines and deworming or anything that a growing child needs,” she said.
In an interview over the Davao City Disaster Radio, the mayor lamented the death of an eight-month-old baby and a three-month-old infant inside the facility on May 11 and 18, respectively.
She was informed that the eight-month-old baby, who was buried in the adjacent Madapo Cemetery, died of pneumonia, prompting authorities to exhume the body on May 13 for autopsy. The three-month-old infant was reportedly cremated.
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