ARMM to check 'mysterious deaths' in Maguindanao town

By John Unson, philstar.com

Posted at Nov 13 2012 01:26 AM | Updated as of Nov 13 2012 09:26 AM

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The Department of Health in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao dispatched Monday a team of epidemiologists to investigate the reported mysterious deaths in recent weeks of 13 villagers in the coastal Datu Blah Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.

Physician Kadil Sinolinding Jr., ARMM’s regional health secretary, said they have an initial theory that the victims could have succumbed to cerebral malaria owing to the high prevalence of malaria cases in Datu Blah Sinsuat.

“We cannot confirm yet at this early stage, the actual number of people that died there. These are still very raw reports coming in,” he said.

The information about the reported deaths in Datu Blah Sinsuat reached different media outfits here  through text messages from villagers.

Sinolinding said there have also been recorded deaths in the area due to cholera in recent years.

“We don’t have conclusions yet based on actual scientific investigations. We have to wait for the report of the team sent to Datu Blah Sinsuat,” Sinolinding said.

Sinolinding said their epidemiology team will evacuate to hospitals villagers detected to be sick of the mysterious disease.

Datu Blah Sinsuat is a coastal town in the southwestern part of Maguindanao, reachable only by pumpboats through makeshift docks in Tapian and Kusiong areas, both in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Most of the fatalities were residents of Barangay Nalkan, according to local officials.

The commander of the 1st Marine Brigade, Brig. Gen. Alex Balutan, said he has ordered the Marines assigned in Datu Blah to help validate and document the reported mysterious deaths.

Datu Blah Sinsuat is under the jurisdiction of the 1st Marine Battalion Landing Team, which is a component unit of the brigade under Balutan’s command.