|Community Based Health Services, Zamboanga Del Sur||Community Based Health Services, Zamboanga Del Norte||Zamboanga Peninsula Health Extension Program|
We, representing as regional health partners of the Council For Health and Development in Western Mindanao, strongly denounce the illegal arrest and detention of the 43 medical practitioners and community health workers since February 6, 2010 by 300 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Southern Luzon Command and Rizal Philippine National Police. We also condemn in the strongest term, the human rights violations inflicted upon the 43 victims in the hands of their AFP and PNP abductors. The fascist attack by the Arroyo government against innocent health providers is a terrible mistake. The victims whom the military repeatedly claim to be “members of the New People’s Army who were making explosives” are the very people who devote their lives caring for the poor and the deprived in far flung communities where government health services are inadequate. They are the people who sacrifice their comfort in order to deliver health services to the lumads and peasants, without demanding for big salaries and recognition for their humble efforts. While many health professionals and other health care providers are leaving the country, the 43 are among those who chose to stay behind to treat our sick people. They do not only treat the sick, but they educate them. They teach them about taking the vital signs, management of common diseases, of making herbal medicines, and many other health trainings that are truly useful to the barrios. The 43 victims are not carrying armalite rifles and calibre pistols as what their abductors claimed, what they always carry to the barrios are their stethoscope, bp (blood pressure) apparatus, thermometer and health manuals. They are not making explosives, but they are making health training modules for community health workers. These people are the ones worthy of recognition for their unwavering commitment in serving the poor. It is shameful and outrageous to call them “insurgents, bomb makers or terrorists.” What happened to our fellow health workers shows that the Arroyo government will not spare anyone whom she tags as “enemies of the State.” Arroyo is indeed beating the deadline of her Oplan Bantay Laya by viciously attacking progressive groups, including the health sector, regardless of the gross human rights violations her government has continuously committed for the last nine years of her presidency.
We demand justice for the 43 health workers. We demand for their immediate release. They have suffered long enough while in detention. We cannot imagine the torment they experience in the hands of their military interrogators. We strongly condemn the military for using mental and physical torture against the detainees.
Free the 43 health workers, NOW.