ROUGH CUTS| Sour note in the Talaingod medical mission

LAST WEEK a medical mission composed of biologists, medical practitioners, social workers, medical students and employees of government agencies as well as members of non-government organizations went to the far-flung municipality of Talaingod in Davao del Norte. The mission provided medical intervention to lumad residents who, of late, were hit with various afflictions that led to 28 deaths.

UP Mindanao biologist Dr. Ruth Gamboa who  was with the mission said that the Lumads who were afflicted with the various illnesses were those who evacuated to Davao City and housed at the Haran Center in the compound of the Brokenshire Health Ministry at Fr. Selga st. They stayed in the center for more than one year and only started going back to their highland communities in December of last year.

The medical mission is a very laudable project and that would only show that there are still many among us who care for the plight of the indigenous people.

However, we learned that there was some kind of a sour note in that medical intervention despite the fact that it was a voluntary effort and that it was aimed to arrest what could have been a health disaster in the making.

This sour note is the claim of the leaders of the medical mission that some of their members were unable to come down immediately after the mission because of some security concerns. According to reports, the mission members and their efforts to provide medicine to the sick Lumad residents were suspected by the armed group Alamara, allegedly a military-backed group of Lumads who are supporting the AFP in fighting the rebel New People’s Army (NPA), as supportive to the insurgents.

Assuming that this claim is true and that the armed Alamara group indeed held some of the mission members for allegedly doing some activities the armed military allies interpreted pro-rebels, the mission organizers have no one else to blame but themselves.

The head of the mission should have coordinated with the military and police authorities so that the two government security forces could immediately warn their supposed armed Alamara “allies” not to intervene in the medical mission or harass any of its members.

Apparently, no such coordination happened. And considering that the main beneficiaries of the medical mission are those who evacuated to the city alleging that they were displaced from Talaingod and nearby Kapalong mountain communities because of soldiers’ abuses it is just normal that the anti-rebel Alamara will be suspicious of the medical activities.

But the situation would have been different if coordination with the military, the police and the local government was effected. We are certain that there will be no such thing as holding some of the mission members from going back home together with the rest of the team.

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Indeed our Davao City is blessed.

Not only that it has been spared so far from disastrous calamities like typhoons, massive floods and earthquakes, it is also well-endowed with various economic activities that provide for the financial resources needed for its operation. And it is not just a case of “barely enough” but more than sufficient for the local government’s need to sustain operation and pursue its other economic endeavors.

Thus, it is not surprising to us that in so many calamities that happened in other areas of the country such as the Bohol temblor in 2012 and the leveling to the grounds a good number of cities and provinces by super-typhoon Yolanda in 2013, that the local government of Davao City was there ahead of several others in delivering assistance in terms of food and other relief goods. And each shipment of relief items is no peanut in terms of its cost. This is because the city’s chief executive may have that burning desire to help not just a handful of calamity victims but majority, or even all of them.

Hence, we are certain that the province of Surigao del Norte could already be thinking of the coming of assistance from Davao City. Therefore we are urging the City’s executives from Mayor Inday Sara to the members of the city council to act with dispatch the facilitation of all legal and administrative requirements to release funds needed to procure items that are extremely needed by our Surigaonon brothers in this most critical times for their survival as a people.

This, to us, is one of those very few times when bureaucratic red tapes must subordinate to the necessity to survive.

And our Surigaonon brothers are very much into that situation close to one week after the disastrous earthquake.

Posted in Opinion