CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 3 Nov) – Slain rebel leader Jorge Madlos aka “Ka Oris” was found to have been infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after swab samples taken from his body were tested by the Philippine Red Cross’s molecular laboratory, the military said.
Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Barandon, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade based in Malaybalay City, said it has been standard operating procedure for the military to test captured or killed New People’s Army rebels for COVID-19 after many of the guerillas were found positive following a series of encounters in Bukidnon last September.
He said a platoon of soldiers, or 20 in all, who were among those who engaged and captured the rebels were eventually infected.
A Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member who joined the soldiers in the encounter, Barandon said, was also infected. The CAFGU member then visited the Division Training Unit in Malaybalay and infected many more of his colleagues, the general added.
“I’m a stickler to the COVID-19 testing protocols because I myself was infected after the September encounters,” Barandon revealed.
The remains of Madlos were cremated Tuesday afternoon at the crematorium of the Divine Shepherd Memorial Chapels in Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City, according to Divine Shepherd documents provided by the military.
Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) of the municipality of Impasug-ong in Bukidnon brought Madlos’s body from the encounter site in Sitio Gabunan, Barangay Dumalaguing to the Divine Shepherd crematorium.
He said the IATF took over the disposal of the remains of Madlos after the latter’s reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test turned out to be positive.
Brawner said a military chaplain, Fr. Dionisio Acaso, blessed the ashes before the urn was brought back to Impasug-ong.
He said it would be up to the Impasug-ong IATF to decide whom the urn should be given.
It was learned that Madlos’s younger brother Rito was on his way to Impasug-ong from Cagayan de Oro to collect the ashes.
Maj. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro, chief of the National Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the Philippine National Police would allow the family of Madlos to retrieve the urn of ashes.
“It is the right of the family to get the cremains,” Ferro noted.
He said the guidelines of the national IATF on disposing or managing the remains of COVID-19 patients will be followed in the case of Madlos.
“The Army will turn over the ashes to the local IATF who will give it to the family,” Ferro said.
Explosions rocked Impasug-ong town anew Tuesday night as Philippine Air Force F50 jets bombed the remaining rebels hiding in the hinterland village of Sitio Gabunan.
Barandon said there is still an ongoing military operation to flush out the remaining 30 members of the NPA who was guarding Madlos.
Barandon said they have monitored that rebels are still in the mountains in Sitio Gabunan. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)