Monday, April 15, 2024

NorMin 2021: From viruses, storms to peace and order, global fame

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (December 31, 2021) – Some would consider 2021 to be an unfortunate extension of 2020 as the country continued to fight off the coronavirus disease in 2019. But not everything in 2021 was bad news for Northern Mindanao as the year also saw milestones in peace and order in the region, and homegrown talents conquering the global stage.

Aside from the pandemic, another health obstacle faced by the region was African swine fever (ASF).

First reported in 2020 in Iligan City, ASF cases were eventually recorded in February 2021 in the hinterland barangays of this city and some municipalities in Misamis Oriental province, with two municipalities in Lanao del Norte, also affected in November.

With this, the Department of Agriculture – Northern Mindanao (DA-10), in coordination with respective agriculture offices of local governments, depopulated about 13,223 ASF-infected hogs, mostly from backyard hog raisers.

Hog raisers were given indemnification of PHP5,000 per hog by the DA-10.

Overall, a total of PHP66.1 million worth of indemnities were released by the agency, covering 3,294 farmer-hog raisers.

But this will be the last time the DA-10 will pay for indemnification because the agency encouraged raisers and farmers to get their hogs insured with the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).

In an interview in October, DA-10 Executive Director Carlene Collado said the PCIC’s coverage is higher than that of the DA’s, going from a minimum of PHP10,000 to as much PHP34,000 based on PCIC’s classification.

Covid-19 vaccination campaign

As soon as the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in March this year, the Department of Health Region (DOH) – 10 distributed them to different local health units across the region.

The first to receive the jabs were medical front-liners, under the A1 list, then followed by Senior Citizens and persons with comorbidities, under A2 and A3 respectively.

To be fully vaccinated, an individual needs to get vaccinated with two dosages, with a minimum interval of three weeks between the first and second dosage. Unlike other vaccine brands, only Johnson and Johnson’s “Janssen” requires one shot.

At the start of the vaccination rollout, some local health officials admitted that they had a hard time convincing their constituents, especially senior citizens, who believed fake information on social media that the vaccines cause harmful effects.

Eventually, the number increased at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2021, after President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly implored the public to get vaccinated, and local governments launched extensive campaigning.

“Pediatric” vaccination to minors aged 12 to 17 years old started in November.

Inoculation figures also increased when the DOH launched “Bayanihan Bakunahan” in November and December with “booster shots” introduced later in the year.

As of December 30, the DOH-10 recorded a total of 2,064,645 vaccinated recipients, both second and single doses, or 58.12 percent of the total qualified population of 3,552,194.

Brawner, Ka Oris, and ELCAC

In this region, President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) No. 70 and subsequent creation of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) has mobilized the “Whole of Nation Approach,” mandating all government agencies to work together.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), through its infantry brigades and battalions, not only went into the field facing skirmishes with communist rebels but also accommodated surrenderers within its areas of responsibility in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

The TF-ELCAC strengthened the Army’s social relations in the communities under Community Support Programs and Barangay Development Programs (BDPs).

At the height of criticisms of “red-tagging” and budget cuts for the TF-ELCAC, then 4ID commander, Lt Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., said in November that about 160 barangays in Northern Mindanao region would be affected if Congress will defund the task force.

Brawner said these 160 barangays which were supposed to receive PHP20 million each will be deprived of their development projects.

He also said barangays that have benefitted from the projects have started “to enjoy benefits of a peaceful community,” because BDPs are important even for former rebels who have surrendered as part of their reintegration to find alternative livelihood in their communities.

Brawner, a Marawi siege veteran, even cemented his military career, when troops under the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the 4ID were able to neutralize Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos in an encounter in October in Impasugong, Bukidnon.

Madlos was a top-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front, and the New People’s Army.

Because of this, Brawner became the Commanding General of the Philippine Army in December, replacing Gen. Andres Centino, who was also once a commander of the 4ID and now the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Brawner’s last days as commander of 4ID were highlighted by the successive surrenders of former rebels, especially in the Caraga Region, and Bukidnon province in Northern Mindanao.

“Let’s put forward the agenda of peace among the people. We shall work together for a just and lasting peace without the use of arms and violence,” Brawner said on one of the occasions when former rebels surrendered.

Typhoon Odette

With an average wind speed of 190 kilometers per hour (kph), Typhoon “Odette,” international name “Rai,” made renewed fear among people in the region, especially in this city and Iligan City, as it coincidentally made landfall on December 16, exactly 10 years after Tropical Storm “Sendong” destroyed houses and left at least 2,500 deaths in the region.

Odette was considered the strongest typhoon this year, with the region reporting the displacement of 53,340 individuals, with five deaths, and an estimated PHP81 million worth of damage to properties.

Despite this, the destruction wrought by the typhoon in Northern Mindanao was somehow much lesser compared to severely-hit areas in the Visayas and the Caraga Region.

This prompted organizations and volunteer groups to launch fundraising events and call for donations to help those affected by the typhoon.

Even during the holidays, the Police Regional Office -10, the 4ID, and the and region’s TF-ELCAC extended help along with other private partners.

Olympics and Intercontinental beauty tilt

For Northern Mindanao, the year was a combined achievement of “beauty and brawn” with Carlo Paalam winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and Cinderella Faye Obeñita being crowned Miss Grand Intercontinental 2021.

The 23-year-old Paalam, whose childhood was spent scavenging in the city’s landfills, worked his way up to become a boxing champion. He is a product of Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno’s sports development program, which he started then as governor of Misamis Oriental.

“It doesn’t matter that he ended up with a silver medal. For us, my son will always be a gold medalist,” Paalam’s father, Pio Reo, said in the vernacular minutes after the first-time Olympian’s split decision loss to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the flyweight division in August.

Aside from Paalam, Philippine athletes winning three other medals at the Olympics was a historic victory for Mindanao as well, including victories from weightlifting gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and boxing bronze medalist Eumir Marcial, both from Zamboanga City, and boxing silver medalist Nesthy Petecio coming from Davao del Sur.

Paalam and other winning athletes received rewards both from the government and the private sector.

In November, Obeñita, 25, brought the city and Misamis Oriental province pride when she won the international pageant.

Currently working as head of planning and events division of the Misamis Oriental provincial tourism office, Obeñita bested 70 other candidates from around the world to become this year’s titleholder of the prestigious beauty-and-brains competition, which is now on its 49th edition.

Before winning an international title, she was crowned Miss Cagayan de Oro in 2019, and Binibining Pilipinas-Intercontinental this year, which automatically qualified her to represent the country in the Miss Intercontinental pageant.

Obeñita’s alma mater Liceo de Cagayan University posted on its website: “Cindy, a wildcard during the Bb. Pilipinas 2021 in July and now Miss Intercontinental, has brought home honor to the nation and to Liceo U, where she also finished her secondary education.”

IP rep says justice served following Ka Oris’ death

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon (07 November 2021/PNA) – Justice has been served after the death of Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, commander and spokesperson of the National Operations Command (NOC) of the New People’s Army (NPA), in the hinterlands of Sitio Gabunan, Impasugong, Bukidnon on Oct. 30.

This, according to Datu Renato Sumbongan, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, in a news release of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) on Sunday, November 7.

“Sa pagpanguna ni Ka Oris sa una, ang mga lumad (IP) nailad nga mokuyog kanila, duna pay namatay apil nga tribal leaders nga matud pa dunay kalapasan kanila ug naa usab mga equipment nga ilang gipang sunog. Isip IPMR sa syudad sa Malaybalay nagatuo ako nga nakab-ot na namo ang hustisya sa iyang kamatayon (Headed by Ka Oris before, the IPs were deceived to join them, there were tribal leaders killed because of alleged violations against them, and there were many equipment burned. I believe that we have already received justice after his death),” Sumbongan said.

For decades, the 74-year-old Madlos led terroristic activities, especially in Mindanao, and was recorded as the most wanted NPA commander in the country.

He faced multiple criminal cases such as robbery with double homicide, damage to properties, murder, and frustrated murder that involved countless innocent civilians, including indigenous peoples (IP) members, Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) members, and soldiers.

Lt. Col. Edgardo Talaroc Jr., 8IB commander, said IP members, soldiers, and the CAA have long been waiting for justice.

“Now, they already achieved it,” he said as he called on the remaining communist terrorist groups to return to the fold of the law.

“We will be relentless in our operation in order for us to attain long-lasting peace and development. It will be better for you to benefit from the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program for your new life with your family,” Talaroc added, referring to the program that grants financial assistance to former rebels.

Madlos, also a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Central Committee and spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF)–Mindanao, was killed with a rebel medic and communications officer Eighfel Dela Peña alias Pika/Maui in an encounter with the combined troops of the 8IB, 1st Special Forces Battalion, and 88th IB under the 403rd Infantry Brigade.

The communist leader tested positive for Covid-19 two days after his death and was cremated before he was turned over to Impasugong officials.

Troops also recovered one M14 rifle, one KG9 rifle, and ammunition of different caliber, other war material, and assorted personal belongings.
Myrna Sulatre (alias Maria Malaya, Iyay, and Emang), the wife of Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos and secretary/spokesperson of the NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command (PNP-13 photo)

Mere propaganda

Peace advocate Joy “Ka Amihan” Saguino, a former rebel leader, condoled with the family of Madlos but said the fight for social justice that insurgents claim is nothing but a fragment of propaganda.

“I have also been in the same situation where my comrades fell in the battlegrounds, believing that violence is the only solution to the society’s turmoil. I have also witnessed the cruelty of the group I once served towards people who are not receptive to the communist agenda and those labeled as “traitors and enemies” of the revolution,” she said in a statement on Oct. 31.

“Memories of violence are still vivid every time I reflect on what I had gone through for 11 years,” she added.


Government forces are also hunting Madlos’ wife, Myrna Sulatre (alias Maria Malaya, Iyay, and Emang), the secretary and spokesperson of the NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command.

She has likewise been charged with multiple murder raps.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973.

NPA top leader ‘Ka Oris’ slain in Impasug-ong

MALAYBALAY CITY (31 October 2021) – ‘Ka Oris”, a top leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) who has PhP 7.8 million bounties was killed in a clash with Army troops in Sitio Gabunan, Brgy. Dumalaguing, Impasugong, Bukidnon on October 30. the military says.

Major General Romeo S. Brawner Jr, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, confirmed the information to the media in a press conference held at the Function Hall inside Camp Osito D. Bahian in the city on October 31.

He said Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris, was among two casualties in a 30-minute encounter between soldiers and the NPA guerrillas in an inhabited and mountainous area in Impasug-ong town.

Maj. Gen. Brawner identified the other casualty as Eighfel Dela Pena alias Pika/Maui, communications and medical staff of Ka Oris. He said both died due to gunshot wounds.

He said the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the 4ID launched combined combat operations at around 12:30 a.m. on October 30 in response to the information from the community about the presence of the armed group.

He said the joint army units were composed of the 8th Infantry Battalion, the 1st Special Forces Battalion, 88IB, a Scout Ranger company, and the Philippine Air force based in Cagayan de Oro City.

The 4ID commander described Ka Oris as a longtime spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao and commander and spokesperson of the National Operational Command of the NPA nationwide. He said Ka Oris was also a member of the communist Central Committee – EXECOM-Politburo and husband of Myrna Sularte alias Maria Malaya, the secretary of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Brig. Gen. Ferdinand T. Barandon, commander of 403rd IB said the position of Ka Oris was fortified with anti-personnel mines (APM).

He said they requested close air support and dropped six bombs in the positions of Ka Oris and his group.

Brig. Gen. Barandon said they recovered an M14 rifle, a KG9 rifle, and ammunition of different caliber, other material, and assorted personal belongings.

Brawner said Ka Oris is facing multiple criminal cases such as robbery with double homicide and damage to properties, multiple murder, double frustrated murder, arson, kidnapping, and others.

On October 31, the National Democratic Front’s (NDF-NEMR) confirmed Madlos was killed by the military but claimed he and his medic were ambushed while onboard a motorcycle Friday night while heading towards the national highway from the Poblacion of Impasug-ong. The statement was signed by Ka Maria Malaya, NDF-NEMR spokesperson and wife of Ka Oris.

In a Mindanews report, Brawner reacted to the NDF’s statement.

“It is not the AFP’s tactics to ambush unarmed combatants especially if they are onboard a motorcycle. Also, on the allegation that there was no actual encounter, the people in the communities around can attest that they heard the sound of gunfire and the sound of airplanes and helicopters on October 30, 2021,” Major Gen. Brawner said.

Madlos frequented CDO for medical treatment – Army

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 2 Nov) – Rebel leader Jorge Madlos aka “Ka Oris” had reportedly suffered from kidney failure and frequented this city to seek medical treatment in the months before he was allegedly slain in an encounter with government troops in Bukidnon last weekend, even as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that Madlos “remained healthy and strong until his last years.”

Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, chief of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command, said Madlos traveled to Cagayan de Oro from Cebu before going to Bukidnon where a massive military operation finally caught up with him.

“Here in Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, the NPA has a network of supporters who are doctors and nurses who can attend to Madlos,” he said.

Almerol said Madlos, 72, who hails from Dapa in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, had been suffering from kidney failure and used to come down to Cagayan de Oro for his dialysis treatment.

A source in Cagayan de Oro said he used to administer intravenous medication to Madlos until it stopped more than a year ago.

The source said he once accompanied the rebel leader to a hospital in Cagayan de Oro where blood samples were taken.

“Madlos did not alight from the vehicle. He had his blood sample taken right inside the vehicle by a sympathetic nurse,” the source narrated.

Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based here, said there was no doubt that Madlos enjoyed a network of doctors and nurses in Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon who were either his friends or sympathizers.

He said Madlos graduated from the state-owned Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Bukidnon.

But CPP spokesman Marco Valbuena denied that Madlos had been frequenting this city for dialysis.

“If he regularly needed to have dialysis, he would not last long in the guerilla zone,” he said over Messenger. Valbuena pointed out that it was Brawner who said that Madlos had been in the guerilla area for long.

He said that Madlos remained healthy and strong and “even joined in guerrilla maneuvers in the face of intense military operations” in the last few months.

Valbuena admitted, though, that the rebel leader had to live with a damaged urinary bladder after he was denied treatment when he was imprisoned from 1987 to 1992. “But it was not life-threatening or debilitating,” he stressed.