Slain New People’s Army (NPA) leader Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos tested positive for COVID-19, and his body was cremated on Tuesday afternoon, November 2, the military has confirmed.
Major General Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, on Wednesday, November 3, said Madlos’ remains were turned over to the town government of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, as soon as RT-PCR test results showed that the rebel leader was infected with the virus.
Brawner said it was Impasug-ong’s COVID-19 task force that took the body of Madlos from the town to the Divine Shepherd Crematorium in Cagayan de Oro City for cremation. Bukidnon province does not have a crematorium.
A military chaplain, Father Dionisio Acaso, blessed Madlos’ ashes before his urn was brought back to Impasug-ong town.
Brawner said it would be up to the Impasug-ong town government to decide to whom the urn would be given.
Rappler learned that Madlos’ young brother, Rito, was on his way to Bukidnon to collect the ashes.
Madlos’ widow, Myrna Sularte, is the secretary of the NPA committee and National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson in northeastern Mindanao. The military said she is the likely successor of Madlos.
Police Major General Albert Ignatius Ferro, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the police would allow the family to get Madlos’ ashes.
“It is the right of the family,” Ferro said.
He said the guidelines of the COVID-19 interagency task force on disposing or managing the remains of those who caught the virus would be followed in the case of Madlos.
Sularte, also known as Maria Malaya, and the NDF earlier called on the government to allow Madlos’ remains to be brought back to his hometown in the Caraga region.
The cremation also rendered moot the Communist Party of the Philippines’ call for an independent autopsy to be performed on Madlos’ remains to determine exactly how he died in Bukidnon province.
Communist rebels have rejected military claims that Madlos and his medical aide Eighfel dela Peña were killed during an encounter of military and guerrilla forces in Sitio Gabunan, Barangay Dumalaguing, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon on Saturday morning, October 30.
They alleged that the two rebels were unarmed and killed a night before, hours before the military airstrikes and ground operations.
The military brushed aside the allegations and accused the rebels of twisting facts and fabricating a story about the death of Madlos.
Meanwhile, explosions rocked Impasug-ong town on Tuesday night as Philippine Air Force F50 jets launched another wave of airstrikes against Madlos’ followers who were said to have been hiding in Sitio Gabunan.
Many netizens from Bukidnon posted messages about how they stayed awake that night, listening to the planes that flew so low and the explosions.
Brigadier General Ferdinand Barandon, 403rd Army Brigade commander, said the ongoing military operations were carried out to flush out the remaining members of an NPA band that guarded Madlos.
Barandon said the military has monitored the presence of rebels still holed up in Sitio Gabunan. – Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship