COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Health workers in Basilan rush to work to prevent the possible outbreak of diseases as conditions in various evacuation centers start to worsen, a ranking health official said.
At least 5,000 individuals—including women and children—have fled their villages since two weeks ago in anticipation of full-scale violence between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
More people are expected to flee their homes when the military and the police finally move into MILF territories in Albarka town.
President Macapagal-Arroyo earlier gave the joint government-MILF investigating team only three days from Friday to unmask those behind the July 10 deaths of Marines in Barangay Ginanta in Albarka.
Fourteen Marine soldiers were killed in the encounter, 10 of them beheaded.
Dr. Tahir Sulaik, regional health secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said health workers in Basilan are conducting preventive measures in anticipation of health problems among the evacuees.
Sulaik said they were particularly concerned about the possible outbreak of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases because of the condition in evacuation centers.
He said aside from teaching the evacuees how to maintain cleanliness in their surroundings, they also conducted medical checkups in various evacuation centers.
“Children were also given liquid and tablet-form vitamins,” he said.
Sulaik said health workers also disinfected water sources in and around the evacuation centers.
Omar Matuan, administrative officer of the regional health office, said during his dialogue with local leaders and health workers, he emphasized the importance of cooperation with the evacuees to prevent diseases.
Basilan Vice Gov. Al-Rasheed Sakkalahul admitted that helping each other in times of emergency is the key to greater survival.
Just as residents of Basilan grapple with evacuation, the entire village of Manalo in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan mourned as Marine Cpl. Arjurin Eleazar was buried last Thursday.
Eleazar, who was accorded hero honors through resolutions passed by the barangay council, the Sangguniang Panlunsod and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, was one of the 14 Marines killed in Basilan last July 10 while on their way home from operations in search for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi.
Eleazar was one of the 10 Marines who were beheaded and mutilated.
Before his body was brought to the cemetery, it was first brought to the barangay hall for necrological rites where the village officials, his teachers during his elementary days and residents paid their last respects.
Resolution No. 17-2007 of the barangay council was read and given to his parents during the rites.
“This time has come, which, for us, seems to be the hardest thing to accept. We would like to thank everybody who supported us through this,” Emily Eleazar, Arjurin’s aunt, said.
Adoracion Latube, Eleazar’s teacher during his elementary days, described him as a role model among his peers.
“He was very responsible and you could see that his parents gave everything they had for him and his brothers and sisters to grow properly,” Latube said.
“He was a friend to all—his schoolmates as well as his teachers,” she added.
As a recognition, Latube also said the Parent-Teacher Community Association of Manalo Elementary School agreed to install him as a hero.
“From now on, his name will be mentioned to our pupils a hero,” she said.
For his part, Manalo village chief Rafael Ibañez said Eleazar indeed deserved all the accolades he received.
“I hope the youth will emulate him,” he said. “I had known him to be responsible and disciplined. In 14 years as a barangay captain, I never heard of any complain against him nor had he any bad record in the barangay,” Ibañez added.
Elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 stationed here gave full military honors to Eleazar during his burial.
And to show support to their fallen comrade and express their rage over how he was killed, the Marines fired off their rifles.
Eleazar’s younger brother, Aldrin, later had his share of expressing his rage as he was given the chance to fire a rifle.
Aldrin is a senior student in one of the colleges here taking up BS Criminology.
Later after the ceremony, he said the bullets he fired were wasted. “It should have been aimed at the killers,” he said. Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao and Geraldford P. Ticke, contributor