190 indigent Muslim, Christian eye patients treated free

COTABATO CITY (John Unson, Oct. 26, 2023) — Volunteer eye doctors and health advocacy groups on Wednesday provided 190 poor Muslim and Christian cataract and pterygium patients here with medical interventions free.

The multi-sector eye care mission at the Zenaida Subdivision here that also benefited members of the non-Moro ethnic Teduray tribe was facilitated by the office of a popular member of the 80-seat Bangsamoro parliament, the physician-ophthalmologist Kadil M. Sinolinding, Jr.

Mr. Sinolinding had served as regional health secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for almost a decade prior to its replacement with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2019 as a result of 22 years of peace talks between Malacanang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Gelliebai W. Mohamad, a senior ophthalmic service staff of the Deseret Ambulatory Referral Center, most known in southern provinces as the Deseret Center, which is based in Kabacan town in Cotabato province, told reporters Thursday some of the patients they served on Wednesday are from isolated barangays here and in nearby Maguindanao del Norte province.

“It feels good to be of service to indigent eye patients, some of them now set for free surgery by the parliament member Doctor Sinolinding and his fellow ophthalmologists in the local medical community,” Ms. Mohamad said.

The Deseret Center, known throughout central Mindanao and the six Bangsamoro provinces as a non-political medical service outfit, has teams of volunteer health workers engaged in humanitarian outreach programs here, in Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte and in the 63 Bangsamoro barangays in different towns in Cotabato province, which is under Administrative Region 12.

A total of 3,673 impoverished Moro, non-Moro and indigenous people had availed of free eye treatment in a series of outreach activities by the group of Mr. Sinolinding, carried out with the support of the health ministry of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, since he was appointed as member of the BARMM parliament by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in August 2023.

One of the eye patients treated here on Wednesday, Halim K. Badruddin, said he is thankful to the outreach team that examined him and assured to treat his cataract soon for free.

“I cannot afford the cost of operation. I don’t have work because of my condition. It is my children that provides for all my needs,” Mr. Badruddin said.

Besides Mr. Badruddin, doctors also examined an 84-year-old former Moro secessionist guerilla from Titay town in the faraway Zamboanga Sibugay province in Region 9, already scheduled to undergo free cataract surgery soon.

“Never will I ever forget this free treatment of my eye problem as long as I am alive,” said the now old, frail ex-Moro guerrilla, who asked to be identified only as Bapah Musib, due to his involvement in deadly attacks on detachments of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary and the Army in predominantly Moro towns in Zamboanga del Sur during the 1970s. (JOHN UNSON)

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