Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Statement of Health, Education and Services for the Less Privileged (HELP)-Panay on the Arrest of 43 Health Practitioners and Workers in Morong, Rizal

The Health, Education and Services for the Less Privileged (HELP)-Panay strongly condemns the arrest of 43 health practitioners and workers in Morong, Rizal on February 6, 2010 and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

The brazen raid of the farmhouse of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a renowned physician and the arrest and incommunicado detention of Dr. Alex Montes, Dr. Merry Mia and 41 health workers are reminiscent of the repressive Marcosian rule, presently resurrected by the Oplan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo regime.

A massive force of some 300 soldiers of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and policemen of the Rizal Philippine National Police raided the property of Dr. Velmonte where a medical training was held by non-government medical and health groups. According to reports, the participants in the training were lined up, frisked, blindfolded, and forcibly brought by army soldiers and policemen to Camp Capinpin, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the AFP. Personal belongings of the health workers, as well as the training materials used, were confiscated.

The insistence by the military that the legal rights of the arrested persons were being respected, despite the fact that they were refused counsel and denied visit by family members, is shameful at the very least. The lame excuse that they “are members of the New People’s Army” and conducted a “training to make explosives” is not only difficult to believe, but cannot be used to justify the gross violation of the legal and constitutional rights of the health workers.

The Gloria Arroyo regime has absolutely no reason, and should be ashamed for this attack against community health practitioners and volunteers. Many people die and suffer of ill health in poor and neglected communities, mainly because of the government’s dilapidated health program. Well-meaning health practitioners determined to help remedy the problem should be encouraged, and not fed to the Oplan Bantay Laya monster.

We call on Gloria Arroyo to intervene and order the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 health practitioners and workers arrested in Morong, Rizal. She should act accordingly and punish the perpetrators of this illegal arrest and all violators of human rights in her regime, if only to lessen the bloody stains in her record as outgoing president.

We call on the whole health sector to unite and condemn this attack against its members. We call on all community health worker volunteers to remain steadfast in our commitment to serve the people, especially the poor and marginalized.

Mary Adrivene B. Dalida
Executive Director, HELP-Panay
Room 9, 2nd Floor Jamerlan Building
Iznart Street, Iloilo City 5000

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Justice for the 43!